Several years ago, after retirement, my wife and I volunteered with the Peace Corps and served in the former Soviet Union, in what is now the Republic of Turkmenistan in Central Asia.
On one occasion while there, we accepted an invitation from one of our students and visited his farm community 100 miles east of the capital city of Ashgabat. Life there was very simple, but we were welcomed generously with parties and song. When the time came for departure, the village elders insisted that we see the mosque that they had recently built.
It was a proud moment for all — processing to the modest stone house of worship, through a handsome entrance to the dark domed area within. We stood quietly for a while. Our hosts then knelt and bowed in prayer. We followed suit.
Afterward, outside, my wife broke the silence and asked the elders what they had prayed for. Together everyone smiled, laughed and answered, "We all prayed for you."
Given the fearful anti-Muslim sentiments we often see and hear today, it's time for us to remember how the great variety of American religious life has evolved through the years to reach the tolerance that's shared today. It hasn't always been this way, but now may be a good time to remember what we have — to speak openly and act generously with our fellow-American Muslims. Perhaps we can even visit a mosque and say a prayer for them.
John P. McCall