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Journal 5 - Religious diversity

January 22, 2006

We shared our New York-Madrid flight with couple dozen Mormon missionaries. They talked among themselves with their church program acronyms and sparked suspiciously enthusiastic conversations with their seat partners. I was quite uncomfortable, but I decided that may be partly because evangelism has its place and history in my own tradition and I still have my uncertainties and insecurities about myself.

Within a week, we were in the Cruz Blanca, with director Hermano Aurelio who shrugs off religious diversity: We all have the same God, and different traditions to understand and approach God. Another staff member, Ali a Moroccan Muslim married to a Spanish Catholic, says that religion is what divides people, causes injustice and violence of all kinds. His suggestion: leave religion to the side, and go on with life as normal.

Evangelism is certainly in Ceuta too. There's an itinerant Catholic fellow from France who is served breakfast and lunch along with the immigrants. He's been traveling through southern Morocco and now is in Ceuta, bringing the message of Jesus. His message: "100% spiritual" and no social motivation, he says. As Ali walks by at breakfast, he tells us with a smile, but quite forwardly that he's here "to tell Ali about Jesus."

This morning Ali and I were talking about how Catholics use images and saints while Muslims insist that there is but one God. In the discussion he asked, "Have you ever seen God?" I said that I believe I have. When I see people go out of their way to give a cup of cold water to someone in need or love someone who is forgotten, I see God there. I could have gone on to talk about what it looks like to see forgiveness, to see conflict transformed, or to see a community come together beyond social, ethnic, economic, or other distinctions. In La Cruz Blanca, Muslims and Christians alike join together to share with immigrants, older people, and mentally and physically handicapped people. In all this, God is seen at work.