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Local groups promoting interfaith dialog

Examples of interfaith projects

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Sponsored link.

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Background:

There have been local meetings involving Jews and Christians for many decades. Only relatively recently have meetings involving Jews, Christians and Muslims become frequent.

When organizing inter-faith meetings of this type, it is important to include all sectors of each religion:

bulletOrthodox, Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist traditions within Judaism.
bulletRoman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, conservative Protestants, mainline and liberal Protestants.
bulletSmall Christian denominations like Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, Christian Science, etc.
bulletSunni, Shiite and Sufi traditions within Islam.
bulletOther faiths and belief systems including Agnosticism Atheism, Humanism, Unitarian Universalism, Wiccan, etc.

It is hopeless to expect that representatives from all of these groups will agree to attend any inter-faith meeting. Some conservative faith groups prohibit their clergy from being present at gatherings involving other religions. Some conservative groups refuse to recognize the legitimacy of more liberal wings of their own religion and also may consider other religions to be led by Satan.

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Some examples of inter-faith meetings:

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2005-FEB-20: DC: A "model gathering of the Abrahamic faiths:" At Evensong, in the National Cathedral in Washington DC, a special service was conducted which brought together three of the Abrahamic faiths: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The Baha'i faith, sometimes considered a fourth Abrahamic faith, may also have been represented. Persons from many non-Abrahamic faiths were also present.

Evensong is an evening service in the Anglican faith. It was led by John Chane, an Episcopal Bishop, Senior Rabbi Bruce Lustig, and Akbar Ahmed, an Islamic scholar. All three delivered talks from the pulpit and discussed their friendship. Guests came from Florida, California, Massachusetts, and Pakistan. to attend the service. Although Evensong is rarely dedicated to an individual, Bishop Chane announced that this was service was dedicated to Akbar Ahmed. Ahmed wrote: "To hear the prophet of Islam greeted as a prophet in the Abrahamic tradition in this grand house of God was to witness history being made. Here was a shifting of the ground. As a Muslim, I felt there could be no better honor for me than this acknowledgement -- neither the Nobel Prize nor the Pulitzer Prize." He hopes that a Jewish or Christian scholar will be honored in a similar way somewhere in a mosque in a predominately Muslim country, perhaps in Cairo, Lahore or Kuala Lumpur. He said: "If we do not take this road of dialogue and understanding then I fear for the next generation. There are enough people preaching hatred, which encourages violence. We are living in times when technology, biology and chemistry have created the possibility of killing in large numbers. And, unfortunately, the cruelty and killing are often justified through a distorted interpretation of religion."

There is, of course, nothing to prevent a similar service from being conducted in a North American mosque or synagogue.

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2005-FEB-27: AZ: Second annual PeaceWalk held in Tucson: About 150 Jews and Muslims marched together in the annual PeaceWalk -- a cross-town march in the midtown area of Tucson, AZ. It started with a traditional Native American blessing at 9 AM, given by Patricia Flores, a member of the Tohono O'odham Nation. Islamic Center Administrator Muhammad As'ad read a proclamation from Mayor Bob Walkup which designated FEB-27 as Tucson Jewish-Muslim PeaceWalk Day as a way to "recognize the extraordinary effort for peace in our own community." The march started at the Jewish Congregation Chaverim synagogue, stopped at St. Mark's Presbyterian Church, stopped at the traveling Coexistence art exhibit on the University of Arizona campus. and ended at the Islamic Center of Tucson. Reporter Anne Minard wrote: "The event came as people of both faiths are focused on a tenuous peace agreement between Palestinians and Israelis in the Middle East - and just after a suicide bombing at a Tel Aviv nightclub Friday threatened it. People taking part in Sunday's walk said they hoped for a ripple effect, so Jews and Muslims all over the world can see each other as real people - as members of the faiths have learned to do here."

Stephanie Aaron, rabbi for Congregation Chaverim said: "In our tradition, the word for 'stranger' means … 'your stranger.'  We want to look at each other and say: 'You are my stranger. I am in relationship with you'." Rashad Aboul-Nasr, a Muslim, said: "Our religion is the most tolerant religion. That's the lesson. That's what we were taught from Day One by our prophets. Go back to the origin, not just what you see in the news." Rene Rene, another Muslim, said: "We talk to our kids. We teach our children to respect each other and each other's religions." 2

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2006-AUG-27 (week of): USA: Inter-faith meetings: There appears to have been an upsurge in the frequency of inter-faith meetings involving Jews, Christians and Muslims during late summer in 2006. They were perhaps triggered by horrendous events in Lebanon. Two examples were:
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A tri-faith panel met at a Catholic Church in Harper Woods, Detroit, MI. The title was "Are You As Confused About The Middle East As I Am?" Present was Dawud Walid, Executive Director of the Council on American Islamic Relations - Michigan Chapter (CAIR-MI); Sharona Shapiro, Executive Director of the American Jewish Committee; and Reverend Daniel Buttry of International Ministries. They discussed what the Holy Land meant to each of them. 3

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About 20 Jewish Christian and Muslim religious leaders attended a meeting in Long Beach, CA. It was hosted by the Long Beach Police Department and sponsored by the National Conference for Community and Justice of Southern California, the South Coast Interfaith Council, the City of Long Beach Human Dignity Program and the police department. The goal was to discuss how the groups could support each other and promote peace and safety among people of all religions.

Referring to the attack of the Jewish Federation Offices in Seattle during July and recent attacks on mosques in San Diego, Lt. Joe Levy said:

"We've found that whenever we have had incidents like those in Seattle or San Diego, it generates a lot of fear in the Jewish community and the Muslim community. We wanted to take a proactive stance on the issue. ... We thought the best way to calm any fears and to have all the communities work together to ensure their safety was to hold the meeting." 4

Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Southern California office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said:

"The unique aspect of this meeting, from our point of view, is that it did not come from a negative reaction but rather as a proactive approach to strengthening relationships among people of all faith groups in Long Beach. ... We are working together to eliminate potential misperceptions, disagreements or maybe the impact of the current atmosphere of war, ... and we're looking at a preventative measure to ensure that the conflict overseas does not spill over into our local communities. ... It took a while to get everybody's schedule open for the first meeting, but it was definitely worthwhile. ... Everybody came out feeling very positive, energized and hopeful. Many of us at the end wondered, 'Why did it take so long to come up with such a great idea'?" 4

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2006-OCT-13: ON: Shabbat-Iftar dinner: Muslim students from the Muslim Students' Association (MSA) and Jewish students frim Hillel @ U of T joined together to organize a joint Shabbat and Iftar dinner at the International Student Centre (ISC) at the University of Toronto (UofT). Bracha Shapiro, a member of Hillel @ U of T, said:

"This cultural Muslims versus Jews disagreement is not founded in the religions themselves; the religions are very close. It’s good to bring people together to recognize similarities and celebrate them."

Dermot Brennan, the ISC program director had organized several individual dinners to celebrate various cultural observances during October. He said:

"[It] got me to thinking: could we actually do the same two dinners at the same time and get Muslim students and Jewish students to come and co-host the dinner for us?. So, this year I posed that question to both Hillel and the MSA and the response was almost identical — and that was very excited and very intrigued."

Student Matt Townsend commented:

"For me, it was really exciting to see these two so-called enemies sit peacefully at the same table, share a meal and their faiths with one another and see how alike they are. All political rhetoric aside, sometimes peace is as simple as sharing a meal over the same table. We all have so much more in common than we often think."

Student Ahdisham Ashraf commented:

"I think it’s a great venue for building bridges. We’re two of the largest Abrahamic faiths on the face of the planet and it’s imperative that we work together and learn more about each other." 5

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References:

  1. Akbar Ahmed, "Commentary: A model gathering of the Abrahamic Faiths," Religion News Service, at http://www.religionnews.com/ (Requires subscription).
  2. Anne Minard, "2nd Annual PeaceWalk: Tucson's Muslims, Jews relish their unity," the Arizona Daily Star, 2005-FEB-28, at: http://www.azstarnet.com/
  3. Aatif Ali Bokhari, "Interfaith dialogue held on Mideast," The Arab American News, at: http://www.arabamericannews.com/
  4. Tracy Manzer, "Leaders meet to promote peace. LBPD creates a forum among religions," PressTelegram.com, Long Beach, CA, 2006-SEP-02, at: http://www.presstelegram.com/
  5. Michelle MacArthur, "Shabbat-Iftar dinner builds bridges. Students find common bond over multi-faith feast," University of Toronto, 2006-OCT-24, at: http://www.news.utoronto.ca/

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How you got here: Home > SpiritualityLocal interfaith groups > here

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Copyright © 2005 & 2006 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2005-MAR-01
Latest update: 2006-OCT-31
Compiler: B.A. Robinson

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