What Do A Priest, An Imam And A Butcher Have In Common?

Living Well

Ron and I live less than a mile from a mosque and several Arab-owned shops in the Netherlands. And our butcher is a Muslim, originally from Morocco. He’s always cheerful and kind, wears a taqiyah on his head, and plays chants as background music for his customers to enjoy. His store is like a community center, bustling with friendly internationalism.

I bike over regularly for things like pomegranates, dates and nuts. I also buy tenderloin from him because I know he feels a responsibility to his Moroccan immigrant community to give them the best quality meat.

butcherI was there last Friday, and it was like a party. He’s got a handmade sign up that translates to: “Offering Festival 2015. You can buy your offering lamb or beef here.”

They’re celebrating “Ied-Ul-Adha 2015,” which is the Festival of Sacrifice, commemorating Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice all, for his faith. It’s a time of prayer as well as celebration. And afterwards, the meat is traditionally given to the needy.

The Festival of Sacrifice always falls during the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, which began earlier this week, on September 22. For 1400 years, every Muslim has been fulfilling his or her religious duty by making the pilgrimage at least once, if financially and physically possible. If they can complete it, they expect to come away with a sense of humility, inner calm, brotherhood and strength.

In past centuries, pilgrims would put their affairs in order before leaving home because the likelihood of making it back was slim. In modern times, the Saudi government spends millions each year to create a safe and easy-as-possible experience. But clearly, two million people walking several miles together over four days in temperatures over 100°F. creates challenges.

And tragically, this year’s Hajj has been marred by the heartbreak of Thursday, when 700 pilgrims were killed and 900 injured, during a stampede. My Muslim neighbors are grieving deeply.

The Netherlands has a long history of accepting and welcoming immigrants. And for the most part, people get along here. There was some tension after 9/11 because people were afraid.

Complicating it further, about that time, the mosque began playing the traditional call to prayer from its minaret on Friday afternoons. Members of the nearby Catholic Church began to complain. Some even said that, since the Adhan was sung in Arabic, there was no way to know whether they were calling for prayer or inciting Jihad. So the church began to play its bells over the mosque’s chants. It became pretty noisy on Friday afternoons!

Finally, the imam and the priest sat down together and talked it out. Fortunately, they were thinking win-win, rather than “I must win, so you must lose,” in which case everyone loses. So it didn’t escalate into a neighborhood holy war.

Instead, they used the principles for arguing effectively. By the time they sat down together, they had already made the two necessary agreements: Yes, we have a problem and it’s affecting both of us. And yes, we’re both willing to do whatever it takes to fix it. So they came to a resolution quickly.

The Catholic Church went back to playing their bells on Sunday mornings. And the Mosque continued to play its call to prayer on Friday afternoons. And both Muslims and non-Muslims continued to shop at the Moroccan butcher’s store.

It’s true that an immigration crisis is building throughout the European Union right now. But, at least in my neighborhood, everyone is getting along and enjoying the diversity.

Photo credit goes to William G. Thomas. This post was originally featured on The Good Men Project, and is also featured on The Huffington Post

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