Embracing our neighbors
On Feb. 5, several hundred neighbors gathered at the Islamic Center of Virginia [“Call and response,” Feb. 8]. We gathered, not for a political rally, not as an act of protest, but to reaffirm that there is more that holds us together than the proximity of our homes. There is more that holds us together than our children’s schools or sports teams. There is more that holds us together than our workplaces or our faith communities.
We came together as neighbors, held together by that which is far more powerful than all that would attempt to divide us. We came together in faith and hope and mutual commitment. And we came together in full recognition that our life together can be better, for we live in anxious and contentious times. At the gathering at the Islamic Center, we reaffirmed our understanding of what it means to be a neighbor.
All of the major faith traditions have a basic teaching that calls us to love our neighbor as ourselves. Reviving this ancient understanding gives us a fresh perspective on our relationships with our neighbors, lived out in public life for the common good. We can be guided by the Islamic teaching that being a good neighbor and realizing our duty to our neighbors doesn’t simply mean being friendly to the homeowners next door. It means helping to take care of the community as a whole.
Living out this neighbor ethic begins by acknowledging that our neighbors include all of the people who gathered at the Islamic Center. Our neighbors include those who were not at the Islamic Center. Our neighbors include those who would not think of gathering at the Islamic Center. That Sunday, at the Islamic Center, we joined together to affirm that our neighbors’ concerns, rights, freedoms and well-being are as important as our own. We are not just random statistics or survey results. Each individual neighbor is significant and has a right to be respected. Each person has a right to be heard with open minds and hearts. We can embrace our differences and, when necessary, humbly agree to disagree. We joined together to honor and celebrate that, in the midst of our diversity, we are a community.
This understanding of what it means to be a neighbor is transformational, and it is essential if we are to live a life that is not dominated by conflict and fear. May it guide us as we work for reconciliation and righteousness for the present generation and generations to come – for our neighbors in our community and our nation and our world.
Rev. Dr. Janet Winslow
BON AIR PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH