Adventist and Muslims Come Together for One San Diego

Posted on Jun 15 2017

Adventists and Muslims from throughout the San Diego area gathered at the El Cajon church on Feb. 4 for One San Diego, a day of mutual learning and fellowship.

The day was the brainchild of four men: Richard Smith, pastor at El Cajon church; Peter Thomas and Tawfik Abdalla, Muslim ministry coordinators; and Gerald Babanezhad, volunteer coordinator of Muslim outreach for the Pacific Union. They recognized that if people wish to become better neighbors to those around them, they should first attempt to better understand each other.

Posters advertising the event were placed in local mosques and Adventist churches, and emails were sent to local-area imams (spiritual leaders). Adventists and Muslims from Sunni, Shia and Baha’i backgrounds came to the event, as did a Jewish woman who heard about it and asked if she could join in.

Creating a mutually welcoming and comfortable environment was a top priority for the organizers. Prior to the event, an imam visited the El Cajon church sanctuary so that leaders could discuss how to best accommodate the Muslim prayer times throughout the day. They also discussed ways that Muslims and Adventists can be good neighbors.

The program included prayers from leaders of Adventist and Muslim faiths, music from the San Diego Academy choir and bell choir, a question and answer time and a panel discussion about shared Muslim and Adventist history, values, goals and needs.

“I loved this experience, and would enjoy having another panel discussion,” said Amir Imam from the Al Salam Mosque.

Another Muslim attendee, Leman Hamid, described the event as “a wonderful meeting between Muslims and Christians.” He said he would like to hear more about Christianity and what Christians feel and believe about Muslims.

Organizers were pleased by the positive response of those who attended.

“The day began with a measure of apprehension on both sides of the cultural divide which eased as attendees discovered how many beliefs both Seventh-day Adventists and Muslims hold in common,” Smith said.

Some of these shared beliefs include a strong emphasis on showing compassion, a deep desire to treat others as good neighbors, a refusal to eat pork and the desire to live a healthy lifestyle.

The mutual interest in health led to a follow-up health expo at a mosque on Friday, Feb. 24. In addition, Muslim women invited Adventist women who attended One San Diego to visit their mosques for worship time to experience their tradition and culture. The Adventist women responded positively, feeling that it would be helpful to the community for both groups to meet more and work together.

Future mutual plans include organizing sports activities for Adventist and Muslim school children, starting a home fellowship where Muslims and Adventists can learn from each other by sharing stories from the Bible and Quran, and planning future panel discussion events.

by Sarah McDugal