Christianity and Islam have a long and contentious history with each other, one that literally spans a thousand years and several wars. Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 the relationship has been, at many times, almost as bitter and intense as it was centuries ago.
In the midst of that post-9/11 bitterness, the Muslim community on the Sammamish Plateau reached out for help and found an unlikely ally in .
Followers of the Islamic faith are required to pray five times a day, and are encouraged to do so in congregation whenever possible. During the day, when they are at work, many believers make do as best they can. But in the evening hours, they attempt to come together and express their faith in as large a group as possible. To do so, they need a place to pray and the Sammamish Muslim Association just didn’t have one.
Of particular interest to the Sammamish Muslim Association was finding an appropriate place for evening prayers during the month of Ramadan, which usually takes place during August and sometimes into September. Ramadan prayers are usually longer and attract a bigger group, making finding a suitable location even harder.
The Sammamish Muslim Association reached out to different churches and schools but couldn’t secure a location. Part of the problem was the hours and length of time the space would be needed. Most facilities just aren’t open late into the night. Frustration set in.
“We didn’t think anybody was going to help,” said Wassim Fayed, founder of the Sammamish Muslim Association and trustee with the Sammamish Mosque.
Fayed approached Mary, Queen of Peace several years ago and received an answer that was pleasant to hear. “Mary, Queen of Peace was very welcoming,” he said.
The church was happy to rent two of its classrooms to the Sammamish Muslim Association for Ramadan prayers and provide a custodian in the evening hours. All the Sammamish Muslim Association would have to do was cover the cost of the custodian.
“We were lucky to talk to them,” Fayed said.
Pastor Kevin Duggan was pleasantly surprised to learn of this relationship when he came to Mary, Queen of Peace in 2005. “I was pleased to see that there was that kind of openness,” Father Duggan said.
Fayed believes that kind of openness and a willingness to listen to and understand one another is the key to improving relations between Christians and Muslims, between East and West.
“I think this is the way of solving the problems of the world,” he said.
Fayed believes that by living with each other and getting to know one another both sides can dispel misconceptions and fears. “There’s ignorance on both sides,” he said.
For their part, the Sammamish Muslim Association is willing to work to combat that ignorance through conversation and openness, and is committing the recently-opened Sammamish Mosque to that task.
“One of the things that we’re trying to do is have a bi-weekly or monthly open house,” Fayed said.
Fayed believes that when people come to the mosque and make an attempt to learn about and understand his faith they will realize a simple truth about Muslims that many in the post-9/11 world may have forgotten.
“They really are human,” he said.