This past week at Kairos Minneapolis, we had the honor of being taught by Rahim Agayev, a native of Baku, Azerbaijan, and a former Muslim. From him, we learned about his conversion from Islam to Christianity. Including the transition from the Islamic worldview to our Christian worldview, and how we can best love and build relationships with our Muslim neighbors.
Rahim began the first day by having a student read Matthew 22:35-40, which reads, “One of them, an expert in religious law, tried to trap him [Jesus] with this question. “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” Jesus replied, “You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”
Rahim continued with “We are called by God to first love Him, and then love our neighbors! Muslims are our neighbors! We ought to love them as such. We have that responsibility!”
But how do we love people well when we don’t know them or understand anything about them? How do we break down barriers? One way to break down barriers is to learn and find common ground. We did this was learning about the Islamic worldview and what our similarities and differences are! For instance, did you know that in Islam, they pray, tithe, and fast? When you take those three similarities and build a conversation around them, it opens up a safe environment for conversation and learning. When we engage strictly in arguments with people, especially people we don’t know, the argument is not going to touch their hearts. The presence of Jesus and his love in us is what will move others.
After the week was through, it was time to take what we learned and put it into practice! We headed over to the Karmel Square Somali Mall to grab some lunch and hopefully experience Somali culture. A few of my friends and I were roaming around looking for food, and stumbled across a shop that appeared to be selling potato wedges. This sounded amazing to us. Turns out, what we thought were potato wedges were actually spicy mangos! I said I would have some, but the men in the shop started laughing and shaking their heads. They said, “They’re too spicy! Do you like spicy foods?” I told them that I could definitely handle it and took a bite. They waited expectantly, their eyes glued to my face. They were definitely spicy, but the mango balanced out the spice really well! I smiled and said I’d take it! They laughed and gave me the rest of them.
After that, two Kairos students, Nate and Amy-Jo joined me in finding some more filling food. After some wandering, we found a sit-down restaurant that was serving goat! I’ve had goat a couple times in my life, but Nate and Amy-Jo were excited to try it for the first time. The cook came out and gave us our food and offered us a banana to go with it. He must have thought our facial expressions were funny because he started laughing and told us to wait a second. After a moment, he came out with three bananas. “In our culture,” he said, “we eat the banana along with our food. We start dinner together by opening our bananas.” He handed us our bananas. “You should try it!” We looked at each other, bananas in hand, and counted backwards from three. On three, we peeled them, and oddly, it felt very similar to a toast at a wedding. I would have had no idea peeling a banana could be so fun if it wasn’t for that kind cook at the Somali Mall!
Going to the Somali Mall was the highlight of last week. It felt like I was overseas again, engaging in a different culture and people group! What I love about Minneapolis is that you don’t have to go overseas to do these things! You can have amazing interactions with people right next door to you if you only put forth the effort. I have a newfound conviction to love my neighbors like this more often.
Kairos Minneapolis Class of 2017