American Muslims are increasingly become subject to racism, xenophobia and scapegoating behaviors and attitudes. Recently, racist rhetoric regarding Muslims and other groups have become much more public and blatant. Each year the Islamophobia industry spends over $30 million dollars to make people afraid of Islam and American Muslims. The websites, YouTube videos, books, white papers, lobbying, and media stars of the Islamophobia industry turn the hearts and minds of people against one another, paving the way for a more divided, fearful future. We don’t have to live in that future. Together we can build a future based on our shared values and vision for America!
Moses, Jesus and Mohammad, peace be upon them, called people in times of deep inequity to be good neighbors. They knew that being a neighbor is not simply a religious or moral issue: Being neighbors with and for each other is the essence of being human. Being neighbors is crucial for the survival and thriving of the larger human community and the Earth of which we are a part.
Neighbors in Faith (NIF) is an effort undertaken by Christians and Muslims to encourage neighborly relationships between Muslims and people of all faith and non-faith traditions so that together we can work for a more peaceful world. This ministry is supported by both Muslims and Christians and is authorized by the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia, the Northwest Washington Synod of the ELCA and the Southwest Washington Synod of the ELCA. NIF will operate throughout western Washington.
The Rev. Terry Kyllo is a Lutheran pastor serving as the director of Neighbors in Faith. He began this work part-time in September of 2016 and full-time in September 0f 2017. A graduate of the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, he has been a pastor since 1991 and has served in partnership between Episcopalians and Lutherans since 2004. He is the author of two books, Being Human and Apprenticeship. Terry was the recipient of the Faith Action Network Interfaith Leadership Award in 2016, the Interfaith Leadership Award from the Muslim Association of Puget Sound in 2017, and the Sultan and Saint Peace award in 2017.
Neighbors in Faith is a partner of the Shoulder to Shoulder Campaign.
Terry came to this work through relationship and work with Muslims and a call experience. He writes:
During Holy Week I was speaking to a few of my Muslim friends about what would come after the “Love in a Time of Fear” events.
I said that we needed someone to help prepare churches for relationship with Muslims and to facilitate Muslims and Christians to enter into neighborly relationships with each other, as each of our founders taught us to do.
Then I heard my voice say, “I think I need to do that.”
I felt a great weight on me as and after I said this, but a lightness too.
I spoke to my wife who said, “Maybe you should listen to that voice.” Since then I have asked my family, my friends, my colleagues in both the Episcopal and Lutheran Churches, my Bishops what they thought. The overwhelming response was, “Of course, do it!”
I know I have much to learn but trust that God is moving in this world to bring us together, not to be the same or to believe the same, but to love God more than our tribe or tradition and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.