The Refugee Journey – Bridging the Cultural Divide

– first published on January 28, 2016
Cerrando la Brecha Cultural

Consider these cultural differences for a Muslim coming into a Christian church. In the mosque, people take their shoes off at the door. Men and women do not sit together. Women, in fact, are in a separate area secluded from the men. Muslims wash before prayer and pray in the direction of Mecca. They stand side by side; men with men and women with women, with a series of synchronized movements that include bowing, bending, and touching their heads to the floor in submission to Allah. They treat their holy book with respect and would never put their Quran on the floor. There is no music.

Imagine what culture shock it is for a Muslim to come into church where men and women are sitting together on pews with their shoes on, singing! And then to see the Bibles on the floor near people’s feet completes the whole jarring experience! Explain the elements of the service ahead of time and what each means, so they will not be so shocked.

Consider how Jesus approaches the Samaritan woman at the well:

Jesus goes to where she is.

Jesus crosses ethnic, cultural and religious barriers to talk with her.

Jesus tells her the truth about God.

He is not distracted by religious debate.

He offers her eternal life.

Her life is transformed and she tells her whole town!


Many of the residents of our area in America are Palestinian immigrants. I bought a box of Arabic New Testaments (available from sharifbible.com ~ site is in Arabic) and asked Jesus to show me who to give them to. One day, a fully veiled woman passed our house pushing a stroller. I got a Bible and followed her down the street a short distance until I caught up with her. I greeted her and told her that I had a gift for her- an Injil (gospel) in Arabic. She said, “I can’t read this book- it is forbidden.”

“Why?”

“It has been changed,” she said.

I asked, “When?”

She looked at me and said, “I don’t know,” and slapped my hand as if to say “You got me on that one!” Her defensiveness broke. Her little girl standing beside the stroller looked up at her Mom and said, “ Can she come to our house for ice cream?” At her daughter’s insistence, the lady agreed. When we got to her house, we all took off our shoes; she took off her veil, motioned for me to sit down in the living room and went into the kitchen to fix the ice cream while I played with the kids. For two hours we ate ice cream, played with the kids, and talked about Jesus.

A Muslim family breaks fast during the fasting month of Ramadan in a house in Falluja, 50 km (30 miles) west of Baghdad September 15, 2007. REUTERS/Mohanned Faisal (IRAQ)

Learn about your friend’s country: their family, culture, food, religious celebrations, sports, and customs. Share yours with them. Consider inviting them to share a holiday with you. Most of all, ask the Holy Spirit to lead you in your friendship.

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One Response to “The Refugee Journey – Bridging the Cultural Divide”

  1. Patti Roberts says:

    I liked the article and would love to receive others like it. thank you.

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