Church buildings come in many shapes and sizes, but their purpose is always the same: to provide a space for worship, prayer, and gatherings. This fall, Philadelphia Praise Center used its space to build a bridge. The church, located in South Philadelphia, opened its doors to the local Indonesian Muslim community during Ramadan and shared a feast.
Philadelphia Praise Center (PPC) is a young congregation, just two years old, but it has always had an interest in connecting with the local community. Congregational leader Aldo Siahaan, who coordinated the event, says the church has a desire to reach out to “all nations represented here in Philadelphia.”
Aware that the Indonesian Muslim community had no mosque or space of its own large enough for the holiday gathering, Siahaan originally offered PPC’s building to the group in the fall of 2006, but nothing came of it. This past September, he was contacted by Muslim leaders who asked if they could use the building in October, during Ramadan.
Siahaan shared the request with members of the church, many of whom are Indonesian immigrants themselves. The congregation was supportive, and on the day of the gathering, church members prepared food, helped with the sound system, and even directed people to bathrooms. About 30 Christians and 100 Muslims shared the meal.
For PPC member Andrew Liemon, the event was remarkable because it would have been nearly impossible to have such a gathering in Indonesia.
About 90 percent of Indonesians are Muslim and there’s a long history of conflict between the two groups. Many Indonesian Christians, including about half of the Indonesian community in South Philly, have migrated to the United States because of religious persecution.
For Siahaan, that history makes it all the more important to reach out. “We want to show them Jesus’ love,” he said. “We believe that can affect people in so many different ways.”
Andrew Liemon agreed. “We’re just trying to show our love to them,” said Liemon. “They might have thought that Christians and Muslims would never get along and we just want to break that pattern and let them know that we are here for them.”
Tim Moyer, who attends PPC while he’s at university, was invited to take photos at the gathering. Moyer says he was encouraged to see the church interact with people from another faith.
“It wasn’t necessarily people they agreed with, but they used their space [to show hospitality],” said Moyer, who noted that crossing those barriers can be threatening. “If Christ is inside of us,” he added, “We don’t have to have fear.”
Siahaan says he hopes there will be more opportunities for interaction in the future. “When we become friends, it’s easier for us to show the love of God, it’s easier for us to share the love of Jesus,” he said.
“We just want to do our part,” says Andrew Liemon, “And we pray that God will do his part. There’s nothing more or less than that.”