Bangladesh: 150 Million people, about the same size as Wisconsin (or Greece), 86% of the people follow Islam. 16 million Bangladeshis live in the capital city of Dhaka.
Point of reference, 314 million people live in the entire United States, 8 million of them live in New York City.
Some of you may not be able to locate Bangladesh on the map, more of you would be hard pressed to list any historical or cultural facts about my birth country. This doesn’t bother me.
Religiously speaking, there are nearly 1 million Muslim women in the United States. According to Pew Research, the women are split nearly in half of whether they chose to wear their head veils and coverings (hijab) and so to the outsider, not all Muslim women are recognizable.
But, here in Minneapolis, those who are physically distinctive as practicing Muslims are everywhere. I get my groceries with Muslims, buy my clothes from them, my children sit and play with their children at the library and playground; diversity is beautiful really. Coming from a fairly homogenous evangelical community for the vast majority of my life, it is refreshing in an inexplicable way.
Seeing Muslims make me think about the life I have lived. Through dramatic events over many months, my American-Dutch Christian parents finally welcomed me into their West Michigan home 29 years ago. Military Coups and martial law in Bangladesh made the exact timing my folks were adopting me extremely difficult for them and those facilitating the process. From Former President Gerald Ford to Mother Teresa, some big players advocated for the release of orphans to loving homes outside the country. Thankfully, Bethany Christian Services and the Sisters of Notre Dame worked tirelessly until their first 19 babies left the tumultuous country, only a decade into Bangladesh’s independent country status.
I was one of them.
The same statement crosses my mind every time I interact with Muslims here in the Twin Cities. I was one of them. My adoption “placement” along with upbringing and community allowed me to be submerged into the Christian faith, but I am hopeful for the “placement” I now have.
I have deep respect for the community I just moved from, but guess what? I have landed in a place where the nations, cultures, and beliefs meet and the opportunity is not lost on me. I am not here to save the world; I have never been one for traditional evangelism models. I am here to listen to people as Jesus would. The opportunity to share in conversations and movements of people in a number of faiths who have voices like I do is exciting to me.
Maybe it is time I do more listening and loving.
The journey, both geographically and spiritually, may ask the Christian me be more aware of the Muslim inside.
I can still call Christ-followers to live as HIS (honest, intelligent, servants) and bring practices of my faith–the fruits of the Spirit–to the streets. Yet, underneath the veil, I am very open to allowing my heritage build bridges my experiences never could.
And friends, I have seen this evidenced in others. You may be something else now, but perhaps what you were or could have been is the road that allows you to listen and speak life to others.
Think about what is under your veil…
To learn more about Bangladesh, please visit Sarah Siddiqi’s (Founder and CEO of “Experience Bangladesh”) website here http://www.experiencebangladesh.com/
New hashtags I will be using more often on Twitter. Follow @nfynewever