A Deacon bridges cultures and religions

Part of a deacon’s calling is to “interpret to the Church the needs, concerns, and hopes of the world.” A new deacon in the diocese of Indianapolis organizes medical missions to Nigeria and interprets to the Church how Muslims and Christians interact every day.

Episcopal Life Online tells the story of the Rev. Fatima Yakubu-Madus, daughter of a Muslim imam, and her recent ordination as a deacon in the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis.

“This has been a journey for me. I was born and raised a Muslim … my dad is an imam for a large congregation in my town,” said Madus, who was ordained a vocational deacon Oct. 23 at St. Stephen’s, Terre Haute, during the 173rd annual diocesan convention.

But for Madus, 54, the distance between her childhood in Auchi, in the southern Nigerian state of Edo, to her present vocation was closer than some might realize.

After arriving at Kentucky State University in Frankfort in 1979 to study chemistry and mathematics, she realized “it was very different from Nigeria. I couldn’t really relate in terms of worship.

“Here, it’s kind of segregated. There isn’t that much interaction between Muslims and Christians,” she said during an Oct. 28 telephone interview from her Indianapolis home.

“Growing up in my family compound, we had Christian tenants,” she recalled. “We played together. I went to church with them. They came to the mosque with me. We did celebrations together. There was nothing like what you hear about Islam in this country.”

She was baptized while enrolled in a postgraduate internship at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, a decision supported by her Muslim relatives, she said.

Yakubu-Madus describes the differences between this country and her native Nigeria in terms of how Muslims and Christians relate to one another. Her experience is that there is more functional separation in America than in Nigeria.

Recent anti-Muslim sentiment in the nation is disturbing to Madus, particularly because “often, what’s reported or said is not true and there is no way you can tell people this is not true because they don’t even know a Muslim as a friend,” she said.

Although she has been Christian for “a very long time, I find myself being on the defensive, trying to explain to people when they make categorical statements about Islam. I try to tell them what it is.

“They don’t understand that it’s not Islam that produces terrorists; it’s people that are in the Islamic faith that decide to be terrorists.”

That misperception has complicated her medical mission endeavors also. “The people in my village now listen to what the media is saying. When they hear all these stories about how bad they are and how they are terrorists, they get really upset at the way they are being portrayed.”

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