A recent press conference for health-care reform in Oklahoma highlights how Baptists and Muslims are working together for the common good.

Sponsored by the Oklahoma Conference of Churches and held at the Oklahoma State Capitol on Oct. 20, the press conference featured speakers representing 14 Christian denominations, Unitarian Universalists, the Baha’i faith and Islam.

TV news coverage of the press conference focused on my statements and those by Razi Hashmi, executive director of the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

I offered an apology “for the heartlessness and indifference of the many Baptists and other Christians who appear to identify more with the priest and the Levite than with the Samaritan in the parable of the Good Samaritan.”

“When we see someone who is sick, injured and beaten down by life in our society our first question should not be ‘Who sinned and made this person poor and uninsured?'” I said. “Instead, our first question should be, ‘What can I do to help?’ More than anything else, you can help by demanding that health care be accessible, affordable, accountable and inclusive of all persons.”

The son of a heart surgeon and a registered nurse, Razi Hashmi said, “Doctors live by the Hippocratic Oath, and my father will work to treat every patient that comes in his door. However, this care cannot be free,” he added. “Doctors should be compensated for their work, instead of being at the mercy of insurance companies.”

Hashmi related how the Islamic faith taught him “to love for your brother what you love for yourself.”

“Living by the Golden Rule,” he said, “it is a God-given right to have health care. With so many Muslims in medical professions nationwide, American Muslims understand the importance of health-care reform.”

The foundation for Hashmi’s statement rests on the value of life in the Islamic tradition. “The sacredness of life and the responsibility of taking care of all humanity are central tenets of my faith, Islam,” he explained. “The Quran defines the sacredness of each human life as ‘to save one life is as if one has saved the lives of all humanity.’ Every single life, in the eyes of God, is sacred.”

Speaking from personal experience, Hashmi stated, “My family has seen firsthand what happens when you don’t have health care in a poverty-stricken country like Pakistan.”

“Each person matters,” he said. “We cannot stand by and allow people to suffer and be ill when we have ways to ease their suffering and cure their illness.”

Hashmi concluded: “It’s time for us to stop sitting on the sidelines and take action. To allow this is to allow an injustice that should not be accepted by people of faith.”

When goodwill Muslims and Baptists work together, the possibility of advancing the common good – like health-care reform – improves.

Bruce Prescott is executive director of Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists.

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