There are Muslim international students on your campus but, while they may be curious, most will not show up at a typical InterVarsity or ministry event. We need to go to them. But it’s very easy to get started:
Three things to know first:
- In this time of complex Muslim-Christian relations, simple gestures of love and friendliness to Muslims are very welcome. Embrace the awkward of a spontaneous connection, and you can build a new friendship quickly.
- Most Muslim international students want to meet Americans and make friends. Many have seldom been approached, so they might be caught off guard. Be kind, non-threatening, and warmly persistent.
- We can be far more open about spiritual topics with Muslim internationals than American students. It’s good to establish your spiritual identity from the start, rather than waiting for later.
Go with a friend!
There’s a reason Jesus sent the disciples out this way. Partnership means accountability, courage, and someone to pray for you before, during and after.
1. Pray for your partner and for the people you will meet. Set a goal like “I’ll prayer walk for an hour or until I make two friends.”
2. Go to places Muslims hang out on your campus. Midday is usually best. Women in hijabs, ESL courses, pickup soccer, malls, Starbucks near campus...
3. Walk up to a group or individual (same gender!) and start a conversation. As you read on, imagine a speaking tone that is both timid (= non-threatening) and friendly:
- “Are you from [this city]?” - Don’t assume they’re an international. But if they are, follow up with “What is your country like? What do you miss about your country?” It’s culturally ok to reciprocate by sharing about yourself too, even if they do not ask you directly.
- If you hear a foreign language, you could ask “Excuse me, may I ask what language that is?”
- Depending on their country of origin, or if you see a woman in hijab or detect another marker, you could ask directly “Excuse me, are you a Muslim?”
4. Introduce yourself. If their name is not familiar to you, repeat it back and ask if you pronounced it correctly.
5.“I’m a Christian, and I’ve been wanting to get to know a Muslim personally. There’s so much tension and anger in America today, but God is not like that. I just want to say ‘Hi, and I’m glad to meet you.’” “Um...thanks.” They’ll probably say this, but possibly nothing more. This is the awkward moment when you could mumble “goodbye” and shuffle away. Don’t! Instead...
6. If you can get into a reasonably friendly conversation for 5-10 minutes, ask: “Would you like to get coffee/tea and talk more sometime?” If they say yes, offer to go right then or soon! Spontaneity and being available for relationships are high values in most Muslim cultures.
7. Then, or when you meet again say “I’d love to hear more about your faith, and what it’s like being Muslim in America.”
8. Over coffee (or in this initial conversation) use words and statements that show that you love God and follow him. Share at least one parable or teaching of Jesus, and ask what they think of it. Get to know them, and let a real friendship grow!