Calendar for WISDOM and Other Interfaith Events
Sunday, April 7th, 12:30 PM to 1:30 PM
WISDOM Women Tell Their Stories at the Hadassah Retreat
Stay Tuned for More information
Thursday, May 2nd 8:00 AM – 19:00 AM
National Day of Prayer at The Congregational Church of Birmingham
1000 Cranbrook Rd., Bloomfield Hills MI
See Flyer Below
Sunday, May 5th, 12:30 – 2:30 PM Detroit Unity Temple
WISDOM authors tell their stories
See Flyer Below
Women in the Bible series – See Flyer below for dates, topics, and venues
WOMEN AUTHORS TELL THEIR INTERFAITH STORIES
From WISDOM’s NEWEST BOOK
“Friendship and Faith, 2nd Edition”
May 5, 2019
Detroit Unity Temple
17505 2nd Avenue
Detroit, MI 48203
12:30 pm – 1:30 pm Luncheon and Dessert for $6
1:30 pm – 2:30 pm Storytelling and Meet the Authors
Followed by Book Sales and Signing
Registration is mandatory – Deadline is April 23
Please register by calling Gerri at the Temple:(specify if vegetarian) (313) 345-4848 Monday – Thursdays,Noon-5PM
Event Sponsored by Detroit Unity Temple, WISDOM and DION
Interfaith Celebration of International Women’s Day Raises Spirits and Funds
By Erin O’Connor
WISDOM partnered with four local non-profits on March 24th to host Women Who Inspire: An Interfaith Celebration of International Women’s Day. Joined by the National Council of Jewish Women, Michigan; the National Council of Negro Women, Detroit Section; the Race Relations & Diversity Task Force; and Zaman International, the women of WISDOM and local community members gathered on a spring afternoon at the Troy Community Center. Nearly 100 guests attended the event, which took place during Women’s History Month to honor the strength and resilience of women of all colors, cultures, faith traditions, and countries of origin.
Five diverse and talented women used varying modalities of expression, including storytelling, video, and poetry, to describe women who had inspired them – from their homes and schoolhouses to their faith traditions and sacred histories. Among the featured storytellers were Hazel Gomez, a Latina Muslim who works as a faith-based community organizer; Zieva Konvisser, a Jewish criminal justice professor whose research centers on survivors of war-related trauma; Carolyn Campbell, a historian and professor of African American Studies and member of the African Methodist Episcopal Church; Aishah Gulam, a South Asian Muslim poet who works in supply chain management; and WISDOM’s own Paula Drewek, a retired professor of world religions and member of the Baha’i Faith.
Through generous donations, the event raised a total of $955 for Alternatives For Girls, a Detroit-based organization that empowers homeless and high-risk girls and young women. The passion and diversity of the storytellers and audience highlighted the significance of intercultural and interfaith dialogue and celebration, as well as our ability to change the world for the better, one story – and relationship – at a time.
Sisters on a mission to stock library shelves with books featuring Muslim women characters
What do you do when you’re looking for a certain type of book in the library and you come up empty-handed? Sisters Zena and Mena Nasiri first experienced that dilemma in fourth grade. A research project required them to read about someone they looked up to, but when they went to their local library to find biographies about Muslim women they admired, they couldn’t find any. It was the first time they realized that the libraries in their community had a serious lack of diversity, particularly when it came to the narratives of Muslim women.
The two came up with a solution to that problem years later after reading The Lines We Cross by Randa Abdel-Fattah. It was the first book Zena and Mena had ever come across that featured a Muslim woman as a main character.
“It brought us memories back from fourth grade, and that inspired us to start a nonprofit ‘Girls of the Crescent
,’ where we collect books with female Muslim main characters and then donate them to schools and libraries,” Zena said.
Supported by fundraising, ranging from bottle drives to website donations, the girls purchase a wide variety of biography, fiction, and nonfiction books to donate. The sisters have raised more than $4,000, and have donated around 500 books to public libraries and individual classrooms. As avid readers themselves, the sisters understand the importance of seeing yourself represented in the books you read.
“It kind of gives us a sense of being included in society because if children grow up and they don’t see themselves in the media, or they don’t see themselves in books, it shows they’re not really included or they’re not shown in society,” said Mena.
Mena and Zena say they want to get books featuring Muslim women and girls into every classroom in their district, and eventually all over the world.
This post was written by Stateside production assistant Katie Raymond.
Learning to Open Our Hearts and Minds Reimagining Interfaith: Taking Our Lead from Kids
by Vicki Garlock
The interfaith movement is all about bringing people together. Most of the time we focus on adults and social justice issues. Don’t get me wrong. I fully support any and all interfaith efforts. But we need to do more, and we need to do it better. That’s why, when I re-imagine interfaith, I see the world’s children. I see open minds, friendly hearts, and playful attitudes. I see eyes full of hope and love. I see a future generation of adults that recognizes the value of all faith traditions – a generation that has moved beyond mere tolerance toward deep appreciation. I see a path forward. There is certainly a role for adults in this scenario. Grown-ups have the means to bring kids of different faiths together. Adults can also facilitate meaningful dialogue and help hold the space for differing worldviews. But adults need to avoid handing down their fears and insecurities to the next generation. The Earth gets smaller by the day, our interconnectedness increasingly apparent. To thrive in this emerging world, kids need to know something about the basic faith practices and beliefs of others, for the health of our planet and the well-being of our species.
Sharing various religious practices with kids tends to expose a common fear – that kids will end up lukewarm to their “home” faith tradition. It shows up in statements like, “One needs to be firm in one’s own faith before engaging in dialogue with ‘the other.'” The problem with this approach is that it excludes kids from interfaith experiences before they’ve even started. And that means we’re setting ourselves up for yet another generation of wary and potentially intolerant adults.
Interestingly, when adults engage in multifaith dialogue, a near-universal refrain emerges: “I realized we are more alike than different.” In my experience, this sentiment is even more common in kids. Why? Because kids around the world like to do the same things! They like to play, listen to stories, create things, eat special food, celebrate special occasions, be part of a community, and have fun. All of these can and do happen in multi-faith settings, especially when kids are involved. Kids don’t have to do the hard work of breaking down barriers because they don’t have barriers in the first place. And this can actually make them better participants in the interfaith movement than adults.
To be sure, clear differences emerge across religious traditions. Everyone involved in the interfaith movement can attest to that. With enough scrutiny, everything seems different. Religions have different ways of articulating the Great Mystery, different holy days, different sacred texts, and different ritual practices. The list goes on.
But, if we take a step back, we can begin to see fundamental similarities: we’re all attempting to articulate the ineffable, we all celebrate important dates in our history, we all have revered writings or oral narratives that guide us, and we all have special ceremonies that help us to embody our beliefs. There are even commonalities across major themes and teachings: being kind to one another, helping those in need, welcoming the stranger, appreciating the wonders of the world around us, and recognizing the miraculous essence of connecting with the Sacred.
When viewed in this way, the list of similarities soon becomes at least as long as the list of differences. Focusing on the bigger picture opens the door to children’s involvement in the multi-faith movement. In fact, it opens the door to their leading the way.
Most of the world’s major faith traditions are incredibly complex, which underlies many intrafaith differences.Here is a time and place for scholarly debate, both within and between religions, but many interfaith initiatives have failed because they started with doctrine. In my experience, kids don’t care much for tenets and precepts. (Truth told, many adults don’t care either!) So, instead of delving into the intricacies of the Buddhist eight-fold path, you can simply share a Buddhist story. Instead of a deep dive into the differing perspectives on Jesus in the Abrahamic traditions, you can make an easy craft depicting one of the Jesus healing stories.
The same holds for sacred texts. More than one adult has said to me, “I’ve never seen a Qur’an before.” There is no reason for this. It’s a book – an important book for many people – but a book nonetheless. You can buy used copies on the internet, and you can download it as an app on your phone. In fact, nearly all the sacred texts can be bought/downloaded, and older translations can be read for free on the internet. So, there is nothing to prevent basic knowledge about incredible books that have, quite literally, changed the world.
Ritual objects are also fascinating. Why not teach kids about chakpurs, the tool used by Tibetan Buddhist monks to make sand mandalas? Why not teach them about shofars, the ram’s horn blown during the Jewish high holidays? It’s hard to imagine how this level of knowledge and sharing could result in a subsequent lack of faith in one’s own tradition. Instead, such exposure seems to produce a level of familiarity that breeds appreciation rather than contempt.
When I “reimagine interfaith,” I see a room full of children from various faith traditions sitting in a circle. They are playing, laughing, and sharing. Each one holds a meaningful item from their faith tradition – a copy of their sacred text, a ritual object, a food item customarily eaten on a particular holy day, and so on. One by one, the kids share how and why their chosen item is important. The adults, also from various faith traditions, sit behind them as they learn from the kids about maintaining a sense of love and light-heartedness.
Anyone who works with kids, regardless of faith tradition, will also tell you that kids like to move around! When I reimagine interfaith, kids are simply enjoying one another’s friendship. There are so many ways to accomplish this. If you want to teach kids about living in harmony with one another, give them a chance to cooperate on tasks or to play group games. Such an approach will be more effective and have a more lasting effect than any lecture. The internet is full of easy-to-manage team-building games for kids of all ages. Kids, like adults, can also be involved in social justice issues. They can pick up trash, decorate postcards for policy-makers, serve meals to the homeless, and make cards for veterans, regardless of faith tradition. So, instead of confining these activities to your own faith community, invite other groups to join in!
Field trips require a bit more planning and preparation, but kids love to see other sacred spaces. Most adults I know have never stepped foot in a synagogue, mosque, gurdwara, or temple. Again, there is no reason for this. Most religious groups love to share their worship space with others, and it costs little or no money! It’s a great way to discover which religions require removing one’s shoes, see where and how people sit, and learn about the art and iconography of various traditions.
When I reimagine interfaith, I see kids being an integral part of the action. I see kids who take delight in working side-by-side with their peers. I see kids who are equally comfortable attending an iftar, a bat mitzvah, a langar, a Samhain ritual, or a ceremony for Ganesha Chaturthi. And I see kids who view members of other faith groups as true community partners.
One of the best ways to engage adults is to provide opportunities for them to tag along with their kids. We adults are busy, and it’s easy for us to get lost in all our daily tasks. One thing leads to another and another, providing little time to reflect on what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. I am as guilty as anyone, driving around, somewhat maniacally from one errand or activity to another. But when it comes to interfaith and kids, even a small amount of effort can result in big rewards.
With a little encouragement and a bit of forethought, we can all begin to imagine what a true multifaith world looks like – both for ourselves and for the next generation. And wouldn’t it be divine if they never needed to “reimagine” interfaith because they were simply living it?
Just a little humor for the WISDOM Window! Read this article!
Alexa responds to minister’s sermon, orders toilet paper
(Religion News Service)
OKLAHOMA CITY (The Christian Chronicle) – When Phil Brookman preaches, even Alexa listens – and dutifully obeys.
Brookman, a minister for Memorial Road Church of Christ
in Oklahoma City, was delivering a Sunday message from 1 Corinthians 12 when his sermon illustration nearly resulted in the purchase of $28 worth of toilet paper.
The sermon, titled “Greet One Another,” was based on the Apostle Paul’s admonition that the church function as one body with many parts.
In addition to the audience of more than 1,000 worshippers gathered for the congregation’s early service, numerous believers watched the sermon online through the church’s video streaming service.
One of them, Bethany Becknell, was at home with a sick child, Eli.
Her husband, Wes, attended Memorial Road’s first service with their other son, Cam.
Brookman preached about how easy it is in the 21st century for Christians to live separate lives – and to fail to see the need for the kind of unity Paul advocates. Even shopping has become depersonalized, Brookman said. Instead of going to Walmart and interacting with other humans, one need only say, “Alexa, order toilet paper.”
From the master bathroom in her house, Bethany Becknell heard a polite female voice respond, “OK. I’ve added it to your cart.”
The voice was that of her Amazon Echo speaker, which can play music and set alarms in response to voice commands. Oh, and order things from Amazon.com
. Bethany Becknell grabbed her phone. Sure enough, there in her Amazon cart was a package of 60 double rolls of Angel Soft Toilet Paper. Cost: $27.45.
“My first thought was, ‘Cancel! Cancel! Cancel!'” she told The Christian Chronicle. They simply didn’t need that much toilet paper.
She soon figured out how to remove the item from her virtual shopping cart – but not before texting a screenshot to her husband. After thesermon, Wes Becknell approached Brookman and said, “You owe me 28 bucks.”
Brookman, enamored with his newfound power, quickly incorporated the screenshot into his sermon and shared it with Memorial Road’s second service. (Two other church members later told him they also wound up with toilet paper in their Amazon carts after the sermon.)
Bethany Becknell said she was happy to add some humor to the sermon, though “I’m a little embarrassed that everybody knows how much toilet paper we buy.” For the second service, Brookman opted for a new sermon illustration: “Alexa, donate $500 to the Memorial Road Church of Christ.” No word yet on if it worked.
The Age Gap in Religion Around the World
By several measures, young adults tend to be less religious than their elders; the opposite is rarely true
(Pew Research Center)
In the United States, religious congregations have been graying for decades, and young adults are now much less religious than their elders. Recent surveys have found that younger adults are far less likely than older generations to identify with a religion
, believe in God or engage in a variety of religious practices
But this is not solely an American phenomenon: Lower religious observance among younger adults is common around the world, according to a new analysis of Pew Research Center surveys conducted in more than 100 countries and territories over the last decade.
Although the age gap in religious commitment is larger in some nations than in others, it occurs in many different economic and social contexts – in developing countries as well as advanced industrial economies, in Muslim-majority nations as well as predominantly Christian states, and in societies that are, overall, highly religious as well as those that are comparatively secular.
For example, adults younger than 40 are less likely than older adults to say religion is “very important” in their lives not only in wealthy and relatively secular countries such as Canada, Japan and Switzerland, but also in countries that are less affluent and more religious, such as Iran, Poland and Nigeria. While this pattern is widespread, it is not universal. In many countries, there is no statistically significant difference in levels of religious observance between younger and older adults. In the places where there is a difference, however, it is almost always in the direction of younger adults being less religious than their elders.
Overall, adults ages 18 to 39 are less likely than those ages 40 and older to say religion is very important to them in 46 out of 106 countries surveyed by Pew Research Center over the last decade. In 58 countries, there are no significant differences between younger and older adults on this question. And just two countries – the former Soviet republic of Georgia and the West African country of Ghana – have younger adults who are, on average, more religious than their elders.
In the latest Baha’i World News Service podcast episode, two representatives of Australia’s Baha’i community discuss what they are learning about consultation’s power to build greater unity of thought and action in society. Ida Walker and Venus Khalessi, from Australia’s Baha’i external affairs office, have been representing the Baha’i
Like many other countries, Australia is grappling with the question of how to foster harmony and cohesion among a population that is increasingly diverse in its ethnic, religious, and cultural makeup. As the government, civil society organizations, and the media have sought to understand this issue better, the Office of External Affairs has been present in the social spaces where social cohesion is being discussed on the national stage.
“We’re really trying in these conversations with others to find language that can help the conversation tip in a direction, which fosters unity and frees us from false dichotomies or assumptions about one another,” Ms. Walker explains.
“We drew on the principles of consultation so that we could have a collective inquiry into certain realities, where everyone’s input is owned by the whole, to really examine how to build social cohesion more closely. Then we were able to contribute to a growing body of knowledge.
Refugees and Americans find community –
over a cup of coffee
Would you like a cup of coffee?
You can feel the warmth in the question.
It’s a hospitable gesture with a universal meaning: You are welcome here.
At a small coffee shop in Clarkston, Georgia, you hear that question asked in imperfect English and thick accents. The employees at Refuge Coffee know what it feels like to long for a welcoming word. So do many of their customers, who fled wars and violence around the world.
“We don’t treat them like a customer coming to buy a cup of coffee,” said Ahmad Alzoukani, himself a refugee from Syria.
“We just think ‘oh this is my brother, this is my sister, this is my friend.’… So we became like a family.”
That connection has always been a key goal for Refuge Coffee founder Kitti Murray. She wanted to create a safe space for people to get to know their refugee neighbors.
“We want to connect people. We want refugees to get to know Americans who live all around them. We want Americans who don’t know a thing about refugees to get to know them,” Murray said.
“And we see it over and over again that real friendships are made over one cup of coffee.”
Kitti and her husband, Bill, moved to Clarkston in 2013 and found themselves in a small Georgia town unlike any other. Clarkston has served as a refugee resettlement location for a generation, and is now called “the most diverse square mile in America.”
To help create job opportunities for refugees, the Murrays refurbished a 1986 Chevy delivery truck and turned it into a mobile coffee van.
They parked at an old gas station in the heart of the refugee population. Their initial plan was a coffee place operated by refugees for refugees.
And then the rest of the town showed up.
Refuge Coffee is based in Clarkston, Georgia, which is known as the “most diverse square mile in America.”
Clarkston rallied around Refuge Coffee and it has become a hot spot for both locals and refugees. The gas station was converted into a coffee house, a safe space decorated with artwork from around the world. As word spread, the Murrays outfitted a second mobile coffee truck for catering and service around the greater Atlanta area.
Refuge Coffee hopes to push its trucks out as far as it can. Every party, event and community the business can serve makes an impression.
“What we get to do is tell the rest of the world a more beautiful and more accurate refugee story,” Murray said.
“You get to show people that refugees are benefits to the community, that they are not scary, dangerous people, that they offer a lot to our world.”
Refuge Coffee runs a one-year full-time training program for refugees. These living-wage jobs also come with English classes, a business mentorship program and entrepreneur training.
“So it’s not just like a job, it’s like home,” Alzoukani said. “It’s like a mother who provides you help and care for a year to get you on your feet.”
Syrian refugee Ahmad Alzoukani started with Refuge Coffee two weeks after arriving in Clarkston, Georgia.
Alzoukani returned a year after his training to become the catering manager. Now he works with the new employees to help them also achieve their American dreams.
“Honestly, when I came to here I realized that I’m going to heaven,” Alsoukani said.
“I’m so grateful to this country and I’m still willing to work hard and try to create and make everything for me and for the others. The dreams are coming and they are become true, and it is going to be happening, I promise.”