A few days ago I was sharing the faith with a passionate Muslim man here in Istanbul. For well over an hour, we talked about many things. It came up in conversation that my new friend thought that our two faiths were pretty similar in terms of morals, and so he was very interested to know what the "rules" of Christianity are. We had a look at the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew. Although he was still pretty keen to convert me to Islam, he was able to acknowledge that perhaps I had a point or two with some of the things I was saying.
However, as our conversation drew to a natural close, he returned to the Palestine issue he had raised earlier. Before we parted, he wanted me to curse the Israelis for the terrible things that had recently been happening in Gaza. Tricky situation...
I paused briefly to pray and gather my thoughts. I asked him if he knew what was happening in North Iraq at the time, and that if he knew that the previous Thursday, some 1500 Christians had been slaughtered by the new ISIS administration there.* I told my friend that Jesus had told us to love our enemies and not curse them. Jesus' commands could be summed up with loving God and loving your neighbour - although I hastened to add that Christians have rarely lived up to this. Terrible as it is what these people are doing, I told him that as Christian I was to bless my enemies, not to curse them - even if that was incredibly hard to do.
This chap was from a part of the country where loyalty to your "team" (be that family, clan or co-religionist) is extremely important. And so it it was obvious to him: If I wasn't prepared to curse people doing terrible things to my "tribe" (i.e. other Christians), of course I was not going to curse the Israelis - or Hamas either. I had to try to love. There was a silence as he tried to understand what I was saying.
It seemed that what was said had finally broken through. I think he had realised that the core message of our two faiths is fundamentally different. He seemed moved, visibly challenged.
He promised to read the New Testament I gave him through twice - and to call me if he had any questions. We shall see. One week later and the phone still hasn't rung! But I know that this message of love challenged him, and - God willing - will not let him rest and will not be forgotten. Love is stronger.
* When I spoke with him, I had thought the victims were all Christian minorities, although as I reflected on and checked my source here and here, most likely the toll also included a good few Shii Muslims, ex-Iraqi soldiers and other unfortunates.