Love your neighbour

This is a lovely, true story. We need to keep telling stories like this.

“Reverend Kees Sybrandi was not, by any stretch, a model example of interfaith awareness and tolerance. When I asked him what he thought about Muslims, he complained that they had created a lot of trouble in the Netherlands. He complained about Muslims poverty, crime, urban blight, terrorism, and government dependency. A very conservative Christian, Pastor Sybrandi firmly insisted that Jesus Christ is the only way, the only truth, and the only life worth having. He insisted that Islam was a false religion and he called Allah a desert demon spirit.

Sybrandi’s attitude about Islam made his response to Theo van Gogh’s murder in 2004 all the more confounding. Across the Netherlands, tensions were running high; mosques and churches were being vandalized and even burned. In a curious response, Sybrandi stood up and walked to his neighbourhood mosque. He knocked firmly on the door and, to the shock of the Muslims huddled inside, he declared that he would stand guard outside the mosque every night until the Dutch attacks ceased. In the days and weeks that followed, the pastor called other churches in the area, and more and more Christian joined him, circling and guarding mosques throughout the region for more than three months.

But why? What possible reason would this conservative Christian give to explain his actions? What could have motivated him, of all people, to do this? Sybrandi showed little awareness of the more peaceful aspects of Islam. He showed no appreciation for Islamic culture, clothing, or food. He recounted no stories of past friendships or dialogues with Muslims. Nor did he profess that as a loyal citizen of the Netherlands it was his patriotic duty to show liberal tolerance towards Islam. He was not inspired by modern dogmas of liberty, equality, or fraternity. Multicultural appeals for a celebration of difference had little pull on his heart. When I pressed him to explain his actions, to give some account for why he would defend a religion he deeply disliked, Sybrandi simply replied, “Jesus. Jesus commanded me to love my neighbour – my enemy too”.

(p. 25-26, Christian Hospitality and Muslim Immigration in an Age of Fear, Matthew Kaemingk, emphasis added)