Before I start this blog, I want to put a disclaimer out there. I love Jesus with all my heart and soul; I believe the bible to be the inerrant words of God even the parts I don’t fully understand.
Now that we all know where I stand, let’s talk for a minute. A few years ago a new charter school came into our neighborhood, charter schools are the new trends for many communities. It’s another option from public school especially for parents who are dissatisfied with the level of education their children are receiving from public schools. Charter schools are publicly funded and many are of private school quality. Their emphasis is on academic. This particular charter school has an emphasis on Math and science.
A couple of years ago when my oldest was ready for middle school, I did some research and was contemplating sending him to that very charter school. The application was done, he was accepted, I met the principal, fees were paid but he begged us to go to the school his friends were going to. As a parent who chose my battles carefully, I decided to send him to the public middle school. Two years later, my son who never cared about what he was learning in school came up to me and said “I want to go to the charter now”, “why?” “I’m not learning enough…” This is the moment moms pray about, the day their children can take ownership and responsibility to discern the good, the bad and the ugly…ok I’m getting ahead of myself he’s only 12.
Don’t worry I’m getting to the title of the blog. During my initial meeting with the principal, I noticed he was Middle Eastern. We shared a few pleasant words in conversation, when he found out I was from Haiti, he showed a genuine concern and asked about my family. He asked a few questions about my child's interest in the school and so on. The meeting went as well as expected for a parent/administrative meeting. We never got into his religion or mine.
That's why I was surprised when I heard of several parents' objection to the school, "the principal's Muslim"! The most recent critique I heard was on Sunday when a parent said the entire school was a Muslim school. If I’m not mistaken all of the critique came from well intended Christian parents. It's funny but I have never heard a parent threaten to not send their children to a school run by liars, thieves or adulterers. One of the parents even said "morally I don't know what they'll be teaching my children!" I wonder if its morals we're really concerned about. Just to be clear on something, these critics are coming from white and black Christian parents alike. I wonder if the Muslims living amongst us are as concern about sending their children to schools where they know the predominant culture is Christian. I think they are but they seem to do a pretty good job teaching their children about their religion. When I taught in NJ, some of my Muslim students would often share with me about observing Ramadan and all that it entails.
I'm sorry if my questions offend you or stir up anger in you but I'm a Haitian woman. When I moved to NJ from Haiti in 1987, we were spat on, mocked, ridiculed, my sister was suspended from school, I was beat up on; my mother would have to come out with a baseball bat to protect us. So my perspective is more of grace for this Muslim principal. We haven’t even taken the time to know his name, whether he’s married or if he has any children; we know nothing about him but we do know he’s a Muslim. Isn’t it odd that we would know that piece of information about him and not his arrest record or if he’s on the child sexual offender’s list?
I think Jesus was aware that we would be living amongst those of different cultures and religions. He knew that our children would come in contact with them, after all he told us to go and be witnesses (Acts 1:8). How are we supposed to be witnesses if we create communities where there are no interactions? No opportunities for this principal to meet Christian parents?
C.S. Lewis says “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else”. That’s also my affirmation. I believe that Christ was and is truly divine not just a prophet; I’m willing to put everything on that belief. I think several other Christians would say the same. If as Christians we believe that to be true, shouldn’t we be trying to engage instead of disengaging?
Where do we begin? How about a good slice of American Christian apple pie?! I'm serious! Don't run from these children of God! Be kind and strike a conversation over apple pie. Try to discern whether they want peace or war, I’ve found that most want to live in peace like the rest of us. They don’t want to convert our children; they simply want their children and our children to play together on the playground. By the way, many of them are as afraid of us as we are of them.
As far as our children, what are doing to teach them to enter the world? Are we exposing them to the message of Christ? To love God with all their hearts, mind and soul; and to love others as themselves? When our children learn to truly love, and learn that Christ was the God/Man and we are to live, love and serve like he did, they will then be ready to engage those of different cultures and religions. I know in this blog I'm omitting the "how". How to love? Should we or should we not send our children to a school where the principal or a teacher's of a different background or religion? Those questions are for you to discuss with Jesus in your own time of prayer. And as for prayer, let’s teach our children to pray for the lost and how to love.
I don’t have answers, I’m still in process but let’s not run. Let’s stop and love the Muslim or the “others” in our neighborhoods.
Send me your thoughts, concerns or questions!