The largest United Methodist Church congregation in the United States hosted a dinner with the local Muslim community as part of the Islamic season of Ramadan.
Church of the Resurrection of Leawood, Kansas, which is headed by the Rev. Adam Hamilton, hosted the iftar dinner, the meal which Muslims eat after sunset during Ramadan, on May 22.
In an interview with The Christian Post on Wednesday, Hamilton explained that his church wanted to “dissipate fear” and “demonstrate the love of Christ” by holding the event.
“We’ve been trying to look for ways to build bridges with the Muslim community in Kansas City and to demonstrate the love of Christ to them,” said Hamilton.
“There’s an organization here in Kansas City who said [to us], ‘is there any interest you all would have in having an iftar dinner with us?’ We talked about it last year and we said, ‘let’s do that.'”
About 320 people attended the event last week, including about 40 Muslims. In addition to dinner the event featured opening remarks by Hamilton and a Muslim representative of the interfaith group the Dialogue Institute of Kansas City.
Hamilton explained to CP that each table had about six to eight people, including members of Church of the Resurrection and at least one or two Muslims. From there, both groups engaged in conversation about matters including how Ramadan is celebrated and experiences with fasting.
“In the end, I think it was a chance for Muslims to get to know who we are. That we’re a congregation of people who try to demonstrate the love of Christ,” Hamilton noted.
“We had a chance, our people enjoyed the chance to hear other people’s stories and hear what they experienced in their fasting and why it was important to them.”
Hamilton felt that both Muslims and Christians who attended the event learned from each other in what the senior pastor and best-selling author described as a “win-win.”
The church’s interfaith dinner event comes as some claim there is rising hostility toward Muslims in America, especially those from an immigrant background.
For example, President Donald Trump has issued executive orders aimed at temporarily barring refugees from a handful of majority-Muslim nations that have a substantial presence of terrorist groups or have expressed support for Islamic extremism.
Some have expressed concern over churches, especially mainline Protestant denominations, holding events for the Islamic community out of concern that they are either compromising the Gospel or are oblivious to extremism.
In response, Hamilton told CP that he did not believe any of his congregation thought about converting to Islam as a result of the event, adding that he believed this was something that Jesus would probably have done.
“He would break bread with people who He disagreed with,” Hamilton said. “So much of Jesus’ ministry, whether it was with sinners and tax collectors, or it was with Pharisees, breaking bread was done.”
“If we’re going to dissipate fear, it’s going to be by breaking bread with people.”