I started researching what to blog about today by looking at my twitter feed to see if any news stories or aid organization’s post would catch my eye. I was drawn to a slew of articles about Iran’s recent protests. As I read through the articles I began to think about how striking the Middle East is and my passion for learning more about the region…

As an undergraduate I traveled to Turkey with a group of fellow students in search of what we thought would be Saint Paul’s footsteps. As beautiful as the city of Ephesus and the view from Assos were, their echoing of Paul was not the lesson that I brought home. Instead, it was a lesson by another faith. I was mystified by Islam. My two weeks in Turkey took my preconceived notions and turned them upside down. I felt welcome as a Christian to commune with Muslims, maybe this sounds odd, but what I mean is that I discovered the love that runs through our two faiths and connects us. Shortly after my trip, I began to take classes on the Middle East and do research into the similarities and differences between the two faiths. I began to think about all the good that could be done in the world if we were confident enough in our faiths to show love to someone who was “different.”

My thoughts entrenched; I turned back to my twitter feed. I continued to scroll down where I found a new post by The Charter for Compassion. I followed to their feed and clicked on a TED talk link. A man from Pakistan spoke to his audience in India about peace, passion, raising people from poverty – Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, Bangladeshi and Nepalese people – and providing them with healthcare. He made a point of talking inclusively, treating his fellow humans with respect.

I started my research thinking about human rights and protests and ended thinking about compassion and inclusion. When I think about the work of ELCA World Hunger and our partners, like Lutheran World Relief and The Lutheran World Federation, I think about the value of human dignity. I think of the programs that support rehabilitating prisoners into viable members of society, the donations that make it possible to supply relief seed for crop growth, the dedication of three pastors to ride across the country in the name of doing away with hunger, the micro-credit lending that creates opportunity in the face of poverty and the soccer balls given to kids as play helps put a smile on their face. When we talk about development and relief work we are not just helping people who believe in the exact same way that we do. We are walking with God’s children around the world, whether they know Him as we do or not, because we are called to love, and this love moves! We do not educate and advocate simply on behalf of the Lutherans or even the Christians, instead our Christ-filled hearts look wider, seek further and touch deeper than ourselves.

The Charter for Compassion begins…

“The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.”

In this Christmas season we have been given Jesus, let us show His light to the world. Working with and for others does not mean denying who we are or what we believe, it simply means giving the best of what we have.