CAIRO – Muslims in Sacramento area in California are planning to share Easter’s joy with their Christian neighbors, delivering 300 gifts to the city’s church to spread the word of love and respect for all faiths.
The gifts represent “a gesture of good will and a show of love and respect for our Christian brothers and sisters,” Irfan Haq, president of the Council of Sacramento Valley Islamic Organizations, told Sacramento Bee on Friday, April 18.
“This is possibly the first such gesture taking place in U.S. religious history.”
Spreading atmosphere of unity, Muslim leaders in Sacramento will deliver 300 gifts at noon today to the First Covenant Church in Rancho Cordova.
The gifts to the 2,000-member evangelical church are part of interfaith exchange which dates back to 2012 between imam Haq and Pastor Mark Shetler.
Cooperation started when 60 congregants of the church served iftar to Muslims in Ramadan 2012.
Members of both faiths were gathered at Sacramento Area League of Associated Muslims (SALAM) center to share iftar and prayers.
“My volunteers kept saying we had run out of food and there were still people to serve,” Shetler recalled.
This happened three times, “and each time I would walk into the kitchen and we would miraculously find more food,” he said.
Repaying their generous invitation, the city’s Muslim leaders saw the Easter as a chance to meet with their Christian neighbors.
“What an amazing occasion,” Haq recalled of the First Covenant Church’s gesture in 2012.
“We wanted to do something to reciprocate, to do something that will give people hope, a theme of Easter, at a time when good news is needed to counter the kind of bad events happening around us, such as the shootings (of three people at Jewish centers) in Overland Park, Kan.”
Christians celebrate on April 18, the Good Friday, a religious holiday observed by Christians in commemoration of the crucifixion of Jesus and his death, an event central to Christian faith.
The celebration is followed by Easter on April 20 which is the most important religious feast of the Christian liturgical year.
Exchanging visits regularly, Muslims and Christians reflected on the similarities shared by the two Abrahamic faiths.
Shetler asserted that both faiths share a belief in the existence of only one god, along with the importance of prayer, caring for the poor and pursuing a lifestyle that pleases God.
“I respect Imam Azeez and other leaders I’ve met at SALAM,” Shetler said.
“They have always treated me and people from our congregation graciously, and I pray we continue to grow in our friendships and opportunities to have spiritual dialogue.”
Though there are no official figures, America is believed to be home to a Muslim community of between six to eight million.
Muslims believe in Jesus as one of the great Prophets of God and that he is the son of Mary but not the Son of God. He was conceived and born miraculously.
In the Noble Qur’an, Jesus is called "Isa". He is also known as Al-Masih (the Christ) and Ibn Maryam (Son of Mary).
As for his crucifixion, Muslims believe that Jesus was not crucified but was lifted up to heaven.
Muslims believe that Jesus will come back to earth before the end of time to restore peace and order, fight the Anti-Christ (Al-Masih Al-Dajjal) and bring victory for truth and righteousness.
The true followers of Jesus will prevail over those who deny him, misrepresent him and reject him.
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