by Rebecca Brown
So you’ve got your peace dinner planned (or if not, see our post on how to plan your first peace dinner), and people will be at your house in a few hours. What will make you a good cross-cultural host?
The following 5 tips will give you a good start:
1. Expect the beginning to be awkward.
Getting together with new people is rarely smooth. There are stops and starts to conversation, nervous laughs, and long pauses. All of this is okay—and likely to be accentuated because you’re inviting together not only new people, but new people from different cultural groups.
Remember that the awkward isn’t bad; it’s natural, and you can push past it for the sake of peace (and new friends)!
2. When in doubt, ask your Muslim co-host what to do.
If you have a day-of question, don’t hesitate to ask your co-host. Let him or her be your resource for Muslim standards and conduct. Will people want to pray during the timeframe of our dinner? Can I leave my pet out, or should I put it away? What kind of music do you think is best, if any? Should we pray before the meal, and how?
3. Remind yourself and your Christians friends that “love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).
It’s natural to have fears about making cultural blunders or not being a good enough representative of Jesus… but relating well to someone from another culture is not primarily about methods and knowledge. It’s about friendship. You will make mistakes. But don’t worry – most Muslims are very understanding and forgiving.
4. Prepare the opening words carefully.
Beginning your “official” time together well is important because it sets the tone for the evening. You might do this before you plate the food or as people sit down to the table. For example, you might quote a scripture like Matthew 5:9 (“Blessed are the peacemakers”), Romans 12:18 (“Live at peace with everyone”), or James 1:19 (“Be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger”). Just be sure to set a tone that will create a safe space for learning and getting to know one another.
5. Encourage conversation.
It can be helpful to give your guests a few questions to ask each other. For some people no questions are needed and the friendship flows naturally, but you can always put a list of ice-breaker questions on the table and let people answer the ones they want.
Let the peace begin!