DALLAS – In holiday season, an Irving Muslim imam and a Dallas pastor are reflecting on their unique friendship to send a message of hope to their community, finding a common ground for understanding amid rising intolerance.
“We have an opportunity to find deep and lasting relationships with anyone,” Dr. Andy Stoker, the Senior Minister at First United Methodist Church in Dallas, told NBC News.
“Reaching out and finding ways to be connected with other people really makes us better people.”
Stoker had been a friend to sheikh Omar Suleiman, the Imam at Valley Ranch Islamic Center in Irving, for years.
Getting closer since the election, the air spoke at each other’s houses of worship, hoping to lead by example.
They released a video Thursday afternoon, showing their friendship and faiths, which quickly racked up thousands of views.
A recent photo of the two in front of First United Methodist Church, both dressed in traditional clothing, holding a banner that reads, “Stronger Together,” was shared thousands of times.
“People are starved for a good example,” Suleiman said.
“You get a few hateful comments, I would say from all sides. From the Islamophobes, from extremists, you get it from all sides who are skeptical what is this all about. Is this some Kumbaya type of thing going on here? Is this real?”
The two friends, of two faiths, share one common goal.
“One of positivity. Overwhelming positivity,” Stoker said.