Local groups promoting interfaith dialog
Examples of interfaith projects
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:
|Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist traditions within
|Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, conservative Protestants, mainline and
|Small Christian denominations like Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons,
Christian Science, etc.|
|Sunni, Shiite and Sufi traditions within Islam.|
|Other 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.
Some examples of inter-faith meetings:
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:
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
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.
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 Ö '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
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
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
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
"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
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. Itís 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 ó 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 itís a great venue for building bridges. Weíre two of the
largest Abrahamic faiths on the face of the planet and itís imperative
that we work together and learn more about each other."
- Akbar Ahmed, "Commentary: A model gathering of the Abrahamic Faiths,"
Religion News Service, at http://www.religionnews.com/ (Requires subscription).
- Anne Minard, "2nd Annual PeaceWalk: Tucson's Muslims, Jews relish their unity," the Arizona Daily Star,
2005-FEB-28, at: http://www.azstarnet.com/
- Aatif Ali Bokhari, "Interfaith dialogue held on Mideast," The Arab American News, at:
- 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/
- Michelle MacArthur, "Shabbat-Iftar dinner builds bridges. Students find
common bond over multi-faith feast," University of Toronto, 2006-OCT-24, at:
Copyright © 2005 & 2006 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2005-MAR-01
Latest update: 2006-OCT-31
Compiler: B.A. Robinson