To begin, I want to thank my sisters and brothers across faiths who have called me in tears and wrote me with letters of support. I am grateful for prayers that have gone forth, not just for how my community has been ravaged by COVID-19, but for the hateful, unconscionable, blatant killings of black men. My prayers as an ordained minister and chaplain are for worldwide healing. Even amid my anger and pain, I believe G-d is in charge. Prayer and faith will prevail.
I write this with an aching and heavy heart. From a personal perspective, I have a black son, nephews, and other relatives. My grandchildren are biracial boys. I taught in Sunday school and mentored many young black men and women. Right now, I feel that each has a target on their backs. It is open season to hunt and kill for sport all black and brown people of any age!
I believe that the current civil unrest – bordering on civil war – is the result of the encouragement of extremist right-wing leaders in every level of our government.
The looting and destruction of buildings is the least of our problems, The problem is not the fall of the stock market. The crux of the matter is the systemic racism that has permeated America since 1619 when the first African slaves were brought to this country.
Africans were treated worse than animals – stuffed into the holes of ships like sardines, chained together with those who died or were diseased. Those slaves who did not commit suicide or die faced lives of heinous treatment, i.e., merciless beatings with whips and chains, brutal rapes, lynching, castration and worse.
After Emancipation came Reconstruction, giving civil rights to freed slaves. This was a time when black men were able to vote and hold public office, Black literacy surged, surpassing that of whites in some cities. Black schools and churches thrived. But this era was short-lived. Redemption followed, led by white supremacists to reverse all black advancement. They erased the right of the black man to vote, and leased black prisoners to provide disposable, cheap labor. These unjust moves relegated black people into a place of servitude as indentured servants.
Then came the cascade of unjust laws targeting the black community: Jim Crow laws that reestablished white supremacy and codified segregation. These laws included bans on interracial marriage and separation of races in public places and businesses.
With the fight for Civil Rights legislation came lynching; and the burning of crosses, houses, and churches. Many of us watched in disbelief either in person or on television as fire hoses were turned on civil rights activists. We were horrified to see police unleashing dogs on men, women, and children to discourage and mutilate protestors.
Now we live in the “New Jim Crow” era, according to author, civil rights litigator and legal scholar, Michelle Alexander. Alexander describes “mass incarceration” and the age of “colorblindness” of which many of our people are not even aware, as they lose freedoms through the movement every day!
Now the lynching is no longer from poplar trees but from within our governments, businesses and institutions of education – starting in kindergarten and continuing all the way through university. Jobs are provided based on physical attributes, experience, and education with less emphasis on the last. Skin color and gender are the most decisive factors.
Traffic stops give opportunity to police officers to antagonize, degrade, and strip persons of their man- or womanhood, without conscience. The statement, “I felt threatened,” justifying the killing of a black “unarmed man,” is considered a valid defense if one is white. However, that same defense is not acceptable in reverse.
Blatant injustices carried throughout police departments, such as coroner reports claiming incorrect or misleading causes of death, make it possible for crimes of police to receive either a lesser sentence or no sentence at all.
This, indeed, is “systemic racism,” along with its resulting annihilation of black and brown people in cooperation with injustices in the court system – from district courts right up to the Supreme Court.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, statistics have proven a disproportionate number of blacks have died compared to whites. Some hospitals are reported to have discriminated in care provided to black people presenting with underlying health issues, and were turned away. Personal protection equipment often has been unequally disseminated in the black community, risking a death sentence for people who have to catch a bus to get to their often minimum-wage jobs that offer no sick pay, even in a global pandemic.
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.
These abuses are but a microcosm of the travesties and tragedies poured out on my ancestors, parents, peers, sons, daughters, grandchildren, friends, neighbors and countless others.
The protests should not end until there is change. Looting and destruction should stop, but demanding justice should prevail – until ending racism is the mission of all.
May G-d have mercy on America, our leadership, and our people.
Faith leaders in metro Detroit call for justice and peace
(l to r) Rabbi Daniel Schwartz, of Temple Shir Shalom in West Bloomfield and the incoming president of the Michigan Board of Rabbis, Rev. Kenneth Flowers of Greater New Mount Moriah Baptist Church in Detroit, Imam Mohammad Ali Elahi of the Islamic House of Wisdom in Dearborn Heights, and Rabbi Asher Lopatin, Executive Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of metro Detroit/American Jewish Committee, stand inside Flowers’ church in Detroit on May 31, 2020. They called for justice, unity and peace, speaking out against racism. (Photo: Rev. Kenneth Flowers)
Faith leaders across metro Detroit are calling for justice, and peace, after the death of George Floyd at the hand of a white police officer in Minnesota.
Jewish, Christian, and Muslim leaders are standing in solidarity with the African American community and have held interfaith gatherings and news conferences, and put out statements condemning the death of Floyd who died when a police officer held a knee down on his neck for several minutes.
In Detroit on Sunday at Greater New Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church, rabbis, an imam and the Rev. Kenneth Flowers spoke out against the injustices that African Americans face while calling for peace.
In Dearborn, Muslim faith leaders, Arab American advocates with the Arab American Civil Rights League, as well as the Dearborn mayor and police chief, also criticized the death of Floyd at a news conference on Sunday outside the Dearborn Police Station.
Also on Sunday, the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan, Rt. Rev. Bonnie Perry, preached: “George Floyd. Say his name. We cannot be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit and crush the life out of another. We cannot tolerate a world, where videos reveal one and we choose to pretend other.”
And on Monday, the Imams Council of Michigan released a statement on behalf of Islamic clerics calling the death of Floyd “criminal and unjustified.”
During Sunday services broadcast online at Greater New Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church, Jewish leaders said they stand with the black community. The church has a predominantly African American congregation.
“On behalf of the Jewish community of Detroit … we are with you at this time, we are with you forever,” said Rabbi Asher Lopatin, Executive Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of metro Detroit/American Jewish Committee. “We are with the African American community, with all the communities that are discriminated against.”
“When George Floyd said those terrible words, ‘I can’t breathe,’ when Eric Garner said those terrible words, ‘I can’t breathe,’ we have to remember that we can’t breathe,” Lopatin said.
Rabbi Daniel Schwartz, of Temple Shir Shalom and the incoming president of the Michigan Board of Rabbis, also spoke at the church, saying: “I want you to know that you are not along in your pain … you are not alone in your fear. … I stand here today to say we must do better.”
Imam Mohammad Ali Elahi, of the Islamic House of Wisdom, said at the church that the death of Floyd was a case of “unbelievable brutality” that “shocked the world.”
“There was no justification … to kneel on Floyd’s neck,” Elahi said.
In his remarks, Flowers said “As a black man living in America, I’m tired of these modern-day lynchings. I’m tired of being treated unfairly and un-trusted based on the color of my skin.”
Flowers said that when he gets pulled over for speeding, “my heart drops not because I’m afraid of getting a ticket” but because of “not knowing if that traffic stop will result in violence and me losing my life.”
Flowers also called for peaceful demonstrations. He was previously a pastor in Los Angeles during the 1992 riots and remembers the devastation. “America is being ripped apart” almost 30 years later after the death of Floyd,” Flowers said.
Flowers said he spoke Saturday night with Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon and Detroit Deputy Police Chief Todd Bettison, saying they want to send a message that they support the protesters, “but in a peaceful, law abiding away and that everything is done in a nonviolent way.”
He commended them for “working to keep the peace in the city.”
Through the weekend, Detroit had not seen the widespread looting and vandalism seen in other cities across the U.S.
“I call upon you also,” Flowers said, “if you are looting, we urge you to stop the looting now, we do not do any justice to our cause by burning buildings, burning the police cars and looting in the neighborhoods.”
“Let us strive to keep the peace, and stop the looting, and stop the violence,” Flowers said.
The Rev. Steven Bland, pastor of Liberty Temple Baptist Church in Detroit and president of the Council of Baptist Pastors of Detroit & Vicinity, said at the Dearborn news conference: “If it happened to George Floyd, it can happen to anyone of us.”
Also at the Dearborn event, Dearborn Police Chief Ron Haddad said that the officer’s actions against Floyd was “the most despicable, indefensible, and incomprehensible action by a human being against a human being.”
NEW YORK – The coronavirus has prompted almost two-thirds of American believers of all faiths to feel that God is telling humanity to change how it lives, a new poll finds. While the virus rattles the globe, causing economic hardship for millions and killing more than 80,000 Americans, the findings of the poll by the University of Chicago Divinity School and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research indicate that people may also be searching for deeper meaning in the devastating outbreak.
Even some who don’t affiliate with organized religion, such as Lance Dejesus of Dallastown, Pa., saw a possible bigger message in the virus.
“It could be a sign, like ‘hey, get your act together’ – I don’t know,” said Dejesus, 52, who said he believes in God but doesn’t consider himself religious. “It just seems like everything was going in an OK direction and all of a sudden you get this coronavirus thing that happens, pops out of nowhere.”
The poll found that 31% of Americans who believe in God feel strongly that the virus is a sign of God telling humanity to change, with the same number feeling that somewhat. Evangelical Protestants are more likely than others to believe that strongly, at 43%, compared with 28% of Catholics and mainline Protestants.
The question was asked of all Americans who said they believe in God, without specifying a specific faith. The survey did not have a sample size large enough to report on the opinions of religious faiths with smaller numbers of U.S. adherents, including Muslims and Jews. In addition, black Americans were more likely than those of other racial backgrounds to say they feel the virus is a sign God wants humanity to change, regardless of education, income or gender. Forty-seven percent say they feel that strongly, compared with 37% of Latino and 27% of white Americans.
The COVID-19 virus has disproportionately wallopedblack Americans, exposing societal inequality that has left minorities more vulnerable and heightening concern that the risks they face are getting ignored by a push to reopen the U.S. economy. Amid that stark reality, the poll found black Americans who believe in God are more likely than others to say they have felt doubt about God’s existence as a result of the virus – 27% said that, compared with 13% of Latinos and 11% of white Americans.
But the virus has prompted negligible change in Americans’ overall belief in God, with 2% saying they believe in God today, but did not before. Fewer than 1% say they do not believe in God today but did before.
Most houses of worship stopped in-person services to help protect public health as the virus began spreading, but that didn’t stop religious Americans from turning to online and drive-in gatherings to express their faiths. Americans with a religious affiliation are regularly engaging in private prayer during the pandemic, with 57% saying they do so at least weekly since March – about the same share that say they prayed as regularly last year.
Overall, 82% of Americans say they believe in God, and 26% of Americans say their sense of faith or spirituality has grown stronger as a result of the outbreak. Just 1% say it has weakened.
Kathryn Lofton, a professor of religious studies at Yale University, interpreted the high number of Americans perceiving the virus as a message from God about change as an expression of “fear that if we don’t change, this misery will continue.”
“When people get asked about God, they often interpret it immediately as power,” said Lofton, who collaborated with researchers from the University of Chicago and other universities, along with The Associated Press, on the design of the new poll. “And they answer the question saying, ‘Here’s where the power is to change the thing I experience.'”
Fifty-five percent of American believers say they feel at least somewhat that God will protect them from being infected. Evangelical Protestants are more likely than those of other religious backgrounds to say they believe that, with 43% saying so strongly and another 30% saying so somewhat, while Catholics and mainline Protestants are more closely split on feeling that way or not.
However, the degree and nature of protection that God is believed to offer during the pandemic can differ depending on the believer. Marcia Howl, 73, a Methodist and granddaughter of a minister, said she feels God’s protection but not certainty that it would save her from the virus.
“I believe he has protected me in the past, that he has a plan for us,” said Howl, of Portalas, N.M. “I don’t know what’s in his plan, but I believe his presence is here looking after me. Whether I can survive it or not, that’s a different story.”
Among black Americans who believe in God, 49% say they feel strongly that God will protect them from the virus, compared with 34% of Latino and 20% of white Americans. David Emmanuel Goatley, a professor at Duke University’s divinity school who was not involved with the survey, said religious black Americans’ view of godly protection could convey “confidence or hope that God is able to provide – that does not relinquish personal responsibility, but it says God is able.”
Goatley, who directs the school’s Office of Black Church Studies, noted a potential distinction between how religious black Americans and religious white Americans might see their protective relationship with God. Within black Christian theology is a sense of connection to the divine in which “God is personally engaged and God is present,” he said. That belief, he added, is “different from a number of white Christians, evangelical and not, who would have a theology that’s more a private relationship with God.
(The AP-NORC poll of 1,002 adults was conducted April 30-May 4 using a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 4.2 percentage points.)
Meet Britain’s ‘Skipping Sikh’: a 73-Year-Old Bringing Joy to Older People Exercising at Home
First there was Colonel Tom walking laps for the NHS, then we had Dabirul Islam Choudhury fundrasing while fasting for Ramadan – and now, adding to the list of inspirational people from the older generation keeping Britain motivated during the coronavirus pandemic, Rajinder Singh has been showing off how to stay fit at home in lockdown.
The 73-year-old retired bus driver from west London has found himself unexpectedly in the limelight after posting a series of videos showing people how to skip – all while raising money for the NHS, encouraging almost £12,000 in donations so far.
The sprightly pensioner was passionate about exercise and keeping healthy before the pandemic, regularly running for charity and joining Park Run for an organised 5km jog every Saturday. But now he’s using that interest to inspire others in his generation and community to do the same, after receiving a huge response online. Global Citizen spoke to Singh and his daughter Min Kaur, who has been helping to film and upload his workouts to YouTube .
“I have always exercised and done things for charity, but in lockdown we decided to put some of the exercises I was doing online to show others what they could do too – my daughter encouraged me, she said it could help other people,” Singh says. “I agreed. I wanted to show people that you can stay active in lockdown.” His daughter explained that she started to realise how isolated older people could become as lockdown began. The government advised people over 70 and those with underlying health conditions to “shield” – meaning going out as little as possible and getting food delivered to their homes.
“I spoke to my friends who have parents or grandparents living with them at home, and even though they were together in the same house, they were spending time in separate rooms to keep them safe,” Kaur said. “I thought it was all a bit sad and depressing.” Kaur also worried that many people would resort to staying on the sofa all day and eating unhealthy food, affecting both their physical and mental health. But her father was determined to keep his spirits up – he couldn’t go for runs anymore but was still skipping every day. So Kaur filmed one of Singh’s sessions, put it on Twitter, and it quickly got over 35,000 views. They’ve since built a lively community of followers on YouTube and across social media, using the hashtag #skippingsikh – with his story featured on the BBC and international outlets such as CNN and Al Jazeera.
Singh explains that he likes skipping because it’s simple to do inside the house or in the garden. “You just get a rope and you don’t need a lot of space to start skipping,” he says. “I skip daily between five and 20 minutes of interval skipping as it’s a great cardio workout,” he adds. “In lockdown this is the best form of exercise as it’s easy to learn and do.”
Some of the workouts show other ways to keep active at home, like lifting makeshift weights, such as watering cans filled with water and other household items. Singh’s wife, Pritpal, has featured in some of them too.
“The younger generation are showing them to their parents and grandparents, and they’ve also been shown on the British-Asian TV channels, so more people saw them on TV and got in touch,” says Kaur.
“People have sent us so many messages online saying they are learning to skip now. During a time of doom and gloom, it’s felt really positive to have motivated people,” Kaur adds. The pair explain that it has also been a good way to connect with the Sikh community online too, as of course during lockdown people can no longer gather to worship weekly.
“We would normally gather at the Gurdwara and the elderly would go there regularly,” Kaur explains. “It has a kitchen and food is available throughout the day, and as they aren’t working that would be their time to meet people from the community and socialise.”
Kaur adds that it is helpful for people in their community to relate to her dad. “He’s not Joe Wicks – some of the exercises are not that intense – and it’s not professional, but it doesn’t need to be, it’s just about having fun and encouraging people to stay active,” she says.
“And it just adds something, if somebody sees someone like them exercising then it makes them want to try it – they’ll engage because it’s someone from their community,” she continues.
As the UK starts to ease lockdown measures, many older people will continue to practice social distancing because of the continued potential risk to their health, and many have been strongly advised to continue to do so by doctors. So Singh and Kaur say they will continue with their videos and keep up the momentum amid their new virtual community.
“I’m really humbled by the response I have got and thank everyone out there who’s supported the fundraiser and felt inspired by my exercises and has started to do exercise,” Singh says of his lockdown project. “I’m truly thankful to those who have shown me so much love.”
Outgoing President Bobbie Lewis’s Speech at the WISDOM Installation Zoom meeting on May 27th, 2020.
Despite the challenges, we held several successful programs, including a membership tea, a docent-led tour of the Detroit Institute of Arts that focused on images of women, and a panel discussion, “Coming to America,” in honor of International Women’s Day, where a diverse group of women shared their experiences and perspectives as immigrants to our country. We held our signature Five Women Five Journeys programs for Oakland Center Physicians, Covington Middle School, Blue Cross/Blue Shield and Hadassah, a Jewish women’s organization.
We also did several community services projects. As we have done for many years, we stuffed backpacks with school supplies with Greater New Mt. Moriah Missionary Baptist Church in Detroit. We prepared food for the communal kitchen in Zaman’s headquarters in Inkster and participated in the graduation ceremony of Zaman International’s BOOST program, which provides English language instruction, GED classes and vocational training for women. This year, with many of Zaman’s activities on hiatus, we have made a donation to help them purchase supplies for the women to make face masks that they can sell. We also contributed to the Oakland County Poverty and Homelessness Task Force.
While our programming challenges remain huge, we are going to get to work soon on planning for the coming year, either programs we can present remotely, like the one are doing now, or activities that will take place once social distancing becomes less intense.
It has been a huge honor to serve WISDOM as president for the past two years. I joined WISDOM – I can’t even remember when, probably about 10 years ago – because I strongly believe in its mission and vision. Interfaith relationships have always been important to ne. WISDOM has been a lifeline in that regard, especially after I retired and my social group contracted to consist mainly of people like me.
I’m looking forward to working with the sisters I have come to know so well over the past few years and with Mary, Suzanne, Reem and Diane, who are joining us today. I know that the intelligence, caring, and energy we share will lead us to do great things for our community.
And I am thrilled to be turning over the presidency to my dear friend Teri Weingarden. I can’t think of anyone better qualified or better suited to lead our organization over the next two years.
Incoming WISDOM President Teri Weingarden’s speech at the WISDOM Installation Zoom
meeting on May 27th, 2020.
I am honored and humbled to “Zoom” before you, as your next WISDOM President. WISDOM started with a few women deciding to sit down and just get to know each other. That is really how most friendships begin, when we take the time to truly listen to and get to know each other.
The founders of WISDOM shared a belief that women were best suited to form an interfaith movement, build on these relationships, encouraging collaboration, empathy, respecting each other’s differences, building bridges and taking action towards change.
This very human and spiritual component is what personally led me to WISDOM. I wanted to be a part of an interfaith group of friends finding commonality, supporting each other and creating pathways to peace. I feel such an integral part of this WISDOM sisterhood and am excited to be helping lead us our organization forward. As our WISDOM President, I want to increase our impact on helping those unseen or misunderstood in our community through interfaith collaboration, engaging in educational programming, and finding new and innovative ways to share our stories.
In our book Friendship & Faith, Parker Palmer is quoted, “What we need is right here, within us and between us, in the places we meet, in the moments we pray, in the times we reach out and across to one another in love.”
It’s important to me to understand what attracted each of you to WISDOM and find a way to engage, encourage and motivate you to work with your WISDOM sisters to make your best contribution towards our world. We need to empower members to be actively involved in supporting our mission as well as experiencing personal fulfillment. We are a team and each member of the team has unique skills, interests and resources to share.
One of our first WISDOM programs, before my time with WISDOM, brought together a group of interfaith women, mostly strangers to do a Habitat for Humanity build. As the day progressed the women worked together, talked together and built together. By the end of the day they had achieved a tangible goal and not only build a home, but also new relationships, understanding and friendships. This is the power of our work together. Building relationships that can lead to powerful collaborations.
We need to continue to deepen our relationships throughout our organization and also leverage our connections with other interfaith organizations to jointly create programming that engages our communities and helps us make space for peace. We are small and powerful but we cannot accomplish everything ourselves. We need to focus on our strengths and help others succeed in their areas of expertise. We should continue to work with organizations that further our mission and support them financially, publicly and through joint projects and volunteer efforts.
Our International Women’s day began two years ago as an idea. One of our WISDOM sisters brought it to us and that program took life. We have invited others to share poems and stories and this year, highlighting immigrant experiences and even raised funds for Alternatives for Girls. This resonates with people and brings light to issues of immigration and discrimination.
In these times of isolation and quarantine, it is important to find additional ways to connect. We deepen our own spirituality and motivation to help others through these inspirational relationships. Luckily, this draws upon several of our strengths. We have a beautiful new addition of Friendship and Faith which shares 52 women’s stories of interfaith relationships, struggle and perseverance. We need to ensure these books are being shared and read so our message can travel into homes around the world. This supports our efforts to dispel myths, stereotypes, prejudices and fear about faith traditions different from our own.
We have our 5W5J (Five Women Five Journeys) which adds a very personal and interactive component to our stories. 5W5J This unique WISDOM program features personal stories of women of different faith traditions, how their childhood impacted their beliefs today, what the challenges are for women in their faith tradition, what parts of their religion are misunderstood, how reaching out to someone from a different faith has enriched their lives.
Through 5W5J, we share our unique perspectives and commonalities, highlighting the fact that none of us are really the “other”. We are your sister, neighbor, colleague or friend. We are discussing ways we can share past discussions or tape new ones and allow for panel interviews or interactive question and answer sessions. This will present a new challenge, but ultimately allow us to share our message more widely. What message do you want to share about the importance of WISDOM?
We need to continue to find ways to support “the other” and advocate for inclusion and tolerance. As stated by Ambassador Samantha Power,U.S. Representative to the United Nations (2013-17), “But as women who, even to this day, know what it feels like to be unheard or unseen, we have an additional responsibility. I think the burden of being treated differently is also our strength – because it gives us the capacity to notice when others are treated differently. To see the blind spots.” We need to take an active role in supporting equality and social justice and “hear, and lift up, the voices of those whom others choose not to hear.”
Our recent support of the Oakland County Poverty and Homelessness Task Force and continued collaboration with the Zaman Boost program show strides in this area. Let’s continue and expand these efforts. How do you want to help us focus on helping those without a voice, thus supporting our efforts to further social justice and world peace? How do you see your passion contribution helping us achieve our mission?
Let me close by quoting President Barack Obama in his commencement speech to my daughter’s college in 2012,
“And if you’re willing to do your part now, if you’re willing to reach up and close that gap between what America is and what America should be, I want you to know that I will be right there with you. If you are ready to fight for that brilliant, radically simple idea of America that no matter who you are or what you look like, no matter who you love or what God you worship, you can still pursue your own happiness, I will join you every step of the way.”
WISDOM Board of Directors 2020-2021
Teri Weingarden, President, (Jewish) West Bloomfield
Karin Dains Vice President of Public Relations, (LDS) Lathrup Village
Gail Katz Vice President of Public Relations (Jewish) Bloomfield Hills
Dr. Paula Drewek, Vice President of Board Development, (Baha’i), Warren
Trish Harris Vice President of Board Development, (Catholic) Bloomfield Hills
Ayesha Khan Vice President of Programs (Muslim) West Bloomfield
Sameena Basha Vice President of Programs (Muslim) Rochester Hills
Bobbie Lewis Vice President of Membership (Jewish) Detroit
Shama Mehta Vice President of Membership (Hindu) Livonia
AMMAN, JORDAN – Christians and Muslims hope a project to reconstruct Mosul’s iconic places of worship, badly damaged by Islamic State militants during their 2014-2017 occupation of the city, will also help to rebuild trust between Iraq’s fractured religious communities.
“Walking in the streets of Mosul, I saw a young neighbor, probably born after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, who never knew peace time in the city,” French Dominican Father Olivier Poquillon told Catholic News Service from the northern Iraqi city of Irbil.
“‘Oh, you are Christians,’ he told me and the group. ‘Come back, come back here to live in peace together,’ he implored us.”
“We know it will be a challenge for everybody to rebuild trust among people, families and communities. But this is our faith. We believe in a God of mercy, and we believe we have this humanity as a common responsibility,” Poquillon said.
The $50.4 million UNESCO project, funded by the United Arab Emirates, envisions rebuilding not only Mosul’s landmark Great Mosque of al-Nouri and its minaret, but also the renowned Conventual Church of Our Lady of the Hour, along with the Al-Tahera Syriac Catholic Church.
Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed a “caliphate” from the al-Nouri Mosque’s minaret in 2014 and, three years later, had it blown up as Iraqi government forces retook the city. The battle for Mosul lasted almost nine months, leaving large areas in ruins and killing thousands of civilians. More than 900,000 others were displaced from the city.
The extremists forced tens of thousands of Christians to choose conversion to Islam or death, if they remained. Instead, they escaped northward, while others fled abroad.
The Dominicans built Our Lady of the Hour Church in the 19th century as a place of encounter. Their history in Iraq dates back to the 13th century, soon after the founding of the order, when their first friar arrived at the behest of the pope. In the 17th century, the Dominicans in Mosul established educational instruction, health care, and sought to unite local Christian communities with Rome.
Later, both large and small seminaries associated with this church educated Iraq’s Chaldean Catholic Cardinal Louis Sako and a host of other top Catholic clerics in the country. Mosul was always considered, along with the Ninevah Plain, the ancestral heartland of Iraq’s Christian community. Our Lady of the Hour’s famed clock tower, the first in Iraq, was gifted by Empress Eugenie de Montijo, wife of Napoleon III, in 1876. The clock installed in 1880 was a famous four-dial clock.
Poquillon, who oversees the project on behalf of the Dominicans, is excited that it is Mosul’s citizens, now nearly 99% Sunni Muslim, who requested that UNESCO include both Catholic churches as absolutely necessary to the city’s rebuilding efforts.
“It’s not a top-down initiative but bottom-up. They (Mosul’s Sunni Muslims) told UNESCO that if you rebuild the Great Mosque, the old city will never again be our city without the Dominican church,” he recounted. “We hope, by the help of God, that this place may return as a sanctuary for the Virgin Mary, venerated by Christians and Muslims alike.”
“The project is a great opportunity because our mission has always been to support the people and to help value the fantastic heritage of this region. Mesopotamia is part of the Holy Land. Abraham was from Ur and Mosul is Ninevah,” Poquillon said. “It is very important not to lose this perspective and to see how we can contribute to help people engage together for the common good.”
Poquillon said the project’s first goal is for Muslims, Christians and other communities “to work together, to do something positive together.” Then, he said, Christians and other religious minorities must see again that Mosul is “their home and that they are in their own land.”
“It is a symbolic commitment of the authorities to tell the Christians that they are indeed part of the community. This the is heart of the joint message between Pope Francis and the grand imam of Al-Azhar to move from minority status to full citizenship,” he said of the leaders’ signed agreement, “Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together.”
Poquillon said Christian and Muslim workers will once again rebuild Mosul’s landmark mosque and churches as they had initially done in the past.
“We are sharing a joint responsibility to rebuild for the common good,” he said. He noted that the Dominicans are not employers for the project, but are accompanying UNESCO on this mission.
A recent spike in COVID-19 cases forced authorities to impose a strict curfew and lockdown from June 1 until midnight June 6, halting work. Northern Iraq was already under a two-month curfew.
Poquillon said workers hoped to be able to clear leftover land mines and sort stones.
“We have to keep the historical stones,” he said of plans to maintain the same cityscape afforded by both the mosque and the church.
“The church is at the heart, the crossroads of the old city of Mosul, on the corner of the two main streets of the city. So, when the people entered the city, they first saw the Clock Tower of Our Lady of the Hour and the Great Mosque minaret,” UNESCO said.
Poquillon said 50 Christian families have returned to Mosul, likely due to the cost of living being lower there than in Irbil or the towns of the Ninevah Plain. But the hope is that Christians and Muslims alike will find jobs and homes in Mosul once again, and perhaps the project will contribute to that.
How to Feed Crowds in a Protest
or Pandemic? The Sikhs Know
The New York Times, June 10, 2020
Inside a low, brick-red building in Queens Village, a group of about 30 cooks has made and served more than 145,000 free meals in just 10 weeks. They arrive at 4 a.m. three days a week to methodically assemble vast quantities of basmati rice, dal, beans and vibrantly flavored sabzis for New York City hospital workers, people in poverty and anyone else in search of a hot meal. This isn’t a soup kitchen or a food bank. It’s a gurdwara, the place of worship for Sikhs, members of the fifth-largest organized religion in the world, with about 25 million adherents. Providing for people in need is built into their faith.
An essential part of Sikhism is langar, the practice of preparing and serving a free meal to promote the Sikh tenet of seva, or selfless service. Anyone, Sikh or not, can visit a gurdwara and partake in langar, with the biggest ones – like the Golden Temple in Amritsar, India – serving more than 100,000 people every day.
Since the coronavirus pandemic has halted religious gatherings in most of the country, including langar, gurdwaras like the Sikh Center of New York, in Queens Village, are mobilizing their large-scale cooking resources to meet the skyrocketing need for food aid outside their places of worship. Some are feeding the protesters marching in outrage over the killings of George Floyd and other black Americans by the police. Last week, a dozen or so volunteers from the Queens center served 500 portions of matar paneer, rice and rajma, a creamy, comforting dish of red beans stewed with tomatoes, and 1,000 bottles of water and cans of soda to demonstrators in Sunnyside. They also offered dessert: kheer, a sweetened rice pudding.
“Where we see peaceful protest, we are going,” said Himmat Singh, a coordinator at the World Sikh Parliament, an advocacy group providing volunteers for the Queens Village efforts. “We are looking for justice. We support this.” Since the pandemic began, soup kitchens have had difficulty keeping up with demand. Shuttered schools and even fine-dining restaurants are using their kitchens to prepare and serve hot meals. But few other places are as well positioned to handle the sheer scale of assistance required right now as the gurdwaras. Most have large, well-equipped kitchens, a steady stream of volunteers and no shortage of ingredients, thanks to regular donations from community members. During the last annual Sikh Day Parade in New York, in April 2019, the Queens Village kitchen – which has a walk-in cooler, multiple freezers, 50-liter stockpots and a huge grill that can cook dozens of rotis at once – produced 15,000 meals in a single day. The Sikhs’ biggest challenge isn’t keeping up with demand. It’s letting people know that they’re here – without making a big show of it or proselytizing, which is forbidden.
Founded in the 15th century in Punjab, India, by the spiritual leader Guru Nanak, Sikhism has an estimated 500,000 followers in the United States and 280 gurdwaras, according to the Sikh Coalition, a civil-rights organization in New York City. One of the most visibly distinctive features of the Sikh practice is the turban – a symbol of the religion’s belief in equality – though not everyone chooses to wear one.
Sikhs in America have been often been prey to bigotry, hate crimes and Islamophobia, particularly since 9/11. A few volunteers said in interviews that before going out to distribute meals, they worried that they might hear ignorant comments. But Santokh Dillon, the president of the Guru Nanak Mission Society of Atlanta, said the people he serves are often more puzzled than prejudiced. Most have never even heard of Sikhism, he said. When some find out that the meals are free, “They look at us and say, ‘You are kidding, right?’ “
At least 80 gurdwaras in the United States are now providing food assistance. For many, the transition has been quick and seamless.
This is not just because the infrastructure is already there, said Satjeet Kaur, the executive director of the Sikh Coalition. “The call to action and the responsibility” for helping others is deeply entrenched in the Sikh way of life. Sikhs are expected to donate at least 10 percent of their time or income toward community service.
It took the Gurdwara Sahib of Fremont, Calif., just a few days after suspending religious services in March to set up a meal and grocery delivery program, and a drive-through meal pickup system outside the gurdwara. Cooks wear gloves and masks, and the kitchen is big enough for workers to stand more than six feet from one another. As at most gurdwaras, the menu changes regularly, but is typically Indian and always vegetarian. (Meat is not permitted in gurdwaras.)
While these Sikh volunteers, known as sevadars, are experts in mass-meal preparation, they aren’t as accustomed to spreading the word. The Fremont kitchen has produced 15,000 to 20,000 meals a day on holidays like New Year’s Eve, said Dr. Pritpal Singh, a member of the gurdwara. But now, the gurdwara is serving just 100 to 150 people each day.
Dr. Singh said he hoped that more people in need would come pick up food. “We could do hundreds of thousands of meals if given the task,” he said.
But with the demonstrations unfolding around the country, Sikhs aren’t waiting for people to come to them any longer. On Tuesday, volunteers from the Gurdwara Sahib attended a protest in Fremont and handed out several hundred bottles of water as a show of solidarity.
On a recent Friday, Gurjiv Kaur and Kiren Singh asked the volunteers at their gurdwara, the Khalsa Care Foundation, in the Pacoima neighborhood of Los Angeles, to prepare meals in the community kitchen that they could take to the protest. The next morning, they and others picked up about 700 containers of pasta with a garlic- and onion-laden tomato sauce and 500 bottles of water from the gurdwara, and set up a tent in Pan Pacific Park. Soon, protesters started arriving at the tent with other donations, like medical supplies, snacks and hand sanitizer.
“It is our duty to stand up with others to fight for justice,” said Ms. Kaur, a graduating senior at the University of California, Irvine. “Langar at its core is a revolution – against inequality and the caste system,” the antiquated hereditary class structure in South Asia, which Sikhism has always rejected.
In Norwich, Conn., volunteers from five gurdwaras handed out a few hundred bottles of water to protesters last Tuesday, and on Friday, distributed as many containers of rajma, or kidney beans, and rice on a Main Street sidewalk, a block from City Hall. Swaranjit Singh Khalsa, a volunteer and a member of the Norwich Board of Education, noted that historically, many Sikhs in India have been killed by the police while fighting for their civil rights.
At many gurdwaras in the United States, most of those who show up for langar meals are Sikhs. Now that they are catering to a broader population, menus have changed to suit different tastes. In the Seattle area, volunteers at the Gurudwara Sacha Marag Sahib are making pasta and tacos in addition to rice and dal.
At the Hacienda de Guru Ram Das in Española, N.M., meals have included enchiladas and burritos. Still, Harimandir Khalsa, a volunteer, said the community kitchen is operating at less than 10 percent of its capacity.
“I think it is about convenience,” Mr. Khalsa said, as the gurdwara isn’t centrally located. “If we had a food truck parked in front of Walmart that said, ‘Free food,’ we could get more takers. But for people to get in their cars and drive over to this place – people aren’t that desperate yet.”
Location is also an issue for the Guru Ramdas Gurdwara Sahib in Vancouver, Wash., as the neighborhood doesn’t have much foot traffic, said Mohan Grewal, the gurdwara secretary. So every other Sunday, volunteers pack up 300 to 400 meals made in the gurdwara and drive them to the Living Hope Church, a Christian congregation six miles away, in a more urban part of the city. One of the biggest challenges for gurdwaras is that many hospitals, shelters and other charitable organizations they’d like to help don’t take cooked food because of hygienic concerns, or accept it only if it meets certain health codes. Many Sikhs have started collecting and distributing pantry items in addition to making meals.
Still, some gurdwaras are bustling. In Riverside, Calif., a hub for the Sikh population, volunteers from the United Sikh Mission, an American nonprofit aid group, and the Khalsa School Riverside, a children’s program, serve 3,000 to 5,000 meals every day at the Riverside Gurdwara. People line up in the drive-through as early as 9:30 a.m., even though it doesn’t open until 11:30.
The process is highly systematized. The cooking team shows up at 5:30 a.m. to prepare meals based on previous days’ numbers, as well as requests from senior centers, hospitals and nursing homes; another team packs the meals into microwave-safe boxes; and the third distributes them at the drive-through and other locations. The gurdwara shares information about the free meals through regular posts on large Facebook groups for local residents.
“We didn’t just sit there and say we are going to cook and wait for people to come,” said Gurpreet Singh, a volunteer for the United Sikh Mission.
Since the protests, Mr. Singh and others have been reaching out to black organizations, like churches, offering to drop off meals or groceries. They expect to see an increase in people showing up for meals, as thousands have been attending protests in the area.
Groups like United Sikhs, an international nonprofit, are helping to get the word out. They have stepped up efforts to identify areas of need, connect gurdwaras with organizations seeking assistance, provide best practices for food preparation during the pandemic and mobilize Sikhs to help feed protesters.
While the pandemic continues, a few gurdwaras aren’t using their kitchens. Tejkiran Singh, a spokesman for the Singh Sabha of Michigan, west of Detroit, said the gurdwara committee decided it was too risky to start a meal distribution service, especially since Michigan has become a hot spot for the coronavirus.
When the Sikh Society of Central Florida, in Oviedo, reopens on June 14, services will be limited to fewer people, and food will be handed out in to-go containers as they leave.
But Amit Pal Singh and Charanjit Singh, the chairman and the treasurer of the Sikh Society of Central Florida, also want to continue the drive-through and delivery services they developed during the pandemic.
“The concept of langar is to serve the needy,” Mr. Pal Singh said. Before the pandemic, he said, most people participating in langar were local Sikhs coming more for social and religious reasons than out of need. The drive-through and deliveries will allow them to put meals into the hands of people who struggle to afford to eat.
That will mean a lot of extra food for volunteers to prepare, in a city where the Sikh population is still small. But none of that seemed to worry Mr. Pal Singh. “We would love to be in that situation,” he said, his optimism vibrating through the phone. “We will handle it.”
Zaman Founder’s Life-Changing
Experience Prepares Her for Pandemic
Earlier in my career, I was a critical care nurse at a hospital in Detroit caring for a 50-year-old man with heart disease. In the middle of the night, the monitors started beeping and the monitors showed the line flattening. I hollered, ‘Code blue! Code blue!’ “The surgeon ran in and said, ‘We have to split the chest.’ Before I knew it, I was looking down at this man’s heart. The surgeon grabbed my hand and put it on the heart. I began to gently clap the heart; it started to quiver. And then it started to beat. “It was a pivotal moment in my life. I have not been the same person since. This is what some call a spiritual synapsis. We all have them. We just aren’t aware of them and often don’t know how to capture the moment.”
Najah Bazzy not only captured the moment; she has been guided by it. Eventually her role as a nurse expanded, and she has found her life’s work. Today, Bazzy, 60, is a world-renown humanitarian recognized for her work as founder of Zaman International, a Detroit-based nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating poverty and restoring dignity among refugee women and children. She has earned a 2019 CNN Top Ten Hero award, among many other such honors. Zaman’s humble beginnings reflect Bazzy’s approach to life: Fix the immediate problem. Do not be slowed down by limitations. Follow the guiding spirit. In the beginning there was no office, no staff, no organization. There was only Bazzy. Her van. And her outstretched hand.
For nearly 15 years, Bazzy delivered food, clothing and household items to newly arrived families in Detroit and Dearborn who had next to nothing. She asked her doctor and nurse colleagues for contributions. And when her van grew too small to store all the donated items, she asked her friends to make room in their garages. Bazzy remains every bit the visionary today as she was then. In January, when coronavirus was an exotic name of a far-off medical condition, Bazzy was planning for the devastation it could cause at home.
“I lived through the HIV crisis. I spent time in critical care, the emergency room, with end-of-life patients. It was almost instinctive, anticipating what we are seeing now: food insecurity with hundreds of cars lined up to receive food. A lot of phone calls, a lot of fear around not being able to pay bills.
“Prior to the state’s shelter-in-place order, I knew we had to prepare. I mobilized our team and we talked about what was coming: The first crisis is going to be around the availability of food. The second is economic anxiety. And the third is grief. “Organizations like Zaman must constantly revisit their operations and ask: Are we as focused as we should be? Are we as efficient as we could be? Are we as strategic as we could be?”
Focus, efficiency and strategy are the reasons why Zaman was able to continue its services without interruption-as well as add new ones-when the pandemic did hit Detroit. Zaman’s food pantry, which had been open to the community, has become a food distribution center where volunteers pack food kits and provide them to area families. Vocational arts and literacy classes for women who are the head-of-households have continued-online. Social work and case management have also continued and can help calm the anxiety of those who miss rent payments and utility bills. And, perhaps most important, her team is ready to offer grief support for those who have lost loved ones.
“Once the shock of this wears off, I think there will be a time of mourning and grief for the families of those who died, and for those who died alone. We are preparing ourselves to help manage grief for those who call on us.”
Though much of Zaman’s current focus is on meeting the needs of COVID-related emergencies, the programs that put Zaman on the map continue. Plots for Tots Infant Burial Program assists families in poverty who suffer miscarriages and infant deaths. Those families include refugees who often experience language barriers and do not understand how to have their infants’ remains released to them from hospitals. Zaman helps these families through this heart-wrenching process ensuring their religious and cultural beliefs are honored and they are treated with dignity. Zaman gives these babies proper burials.
Another program, less grave, but impactful just the same, is the Back to School Initiative. The program expanded in 2015 with a $12,500 grant from Ford Fund, and provides backpacks filled with new school supplies to K-12 students at the beginning of each school year. More than 5,000 students have been served.
This grant represents an on-going relationship between Ford Fund and Zaman. In 2016, Ford Fund donated a Ford Transit to support Zaman’s food pantry operations. And in 2018, Zaman became a nonprofit partner in the Ford Volunteer Corps-a global network of Ford employees and retirees who lend their time and expertise in tens of thousands of community service projects each year. Bazzy said the backpack program will continue this fall whether students return to brick and mortar schools or continue to their classes from home.
“It’s important that kids feel they are counted,” she said. “The ritual of collecting school supplies at the beginning of the school year is exciting for kids. It’s symbolic of hope for the future, and Ford Fund helped make it possible.”
Always the visionary, Bazzy likens the emergency of COVID-19 to the emergency of the man whose heart she held in her hands all those years ago. “These times require a collective human response. If we could look through the lens of our collective heart, maybe we would be kinder and there would be less war and less destruction. I believe we will learn to honor the differences between us. That’s the human spirit. It is something beautiful to watch.
What Latter-day Saints Can Learn from Ramadan to Enhance Their Fasting Experience
For our Muslim friends and neighbors around the world, April 23 through May 23 is the holy month of Ramadan. Serving on the board of directors for the Interfaith Leadership Council of Metro Detroit and in my capacity as public affairs director for the Church in my stake, I have had some incredible opportunities to explore the rich religious landscape of my diverse community. One of my favorite experiences has been celebrating Ramadan with my wonderful Muslim friends and neighbors.
Before I got involved in interfaith work, the only thing I knew about Ramadan was that it involved fasting-for a really, really long time. As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I am no stranger to fasting. During our designated fast Sunday at the start of each month, we go without food or drink for two consecutive meals, or approximately 24 hours. But a month! How do you fast for an entire month?
Ramadan lasts for 29 or 30 days, depending on when the new moon is seen based on the Islamic calendar. Before sunrise each day, a pre-fast meal called the Suhoor is eaten to provide energy for the day. The morning prayer (Fajr) marks the beginning of their fast, which lasts until the sun sets. Once the evening prayer (Maghrib) has been observed, it is time to refuel physically and emotionally for the next day of fasting and devotion. Family and friends often gather for the evening meal (Iftar) which is a time of unity and celebration during this season of spiritual reflection and increased worship to God.
One of my favorite interfaith experiences has been joining my Muslim bothers and sisters for an Iftar during the month of Ramadan. Not only is the food absolutely amazing (seriously the best!) but the spirit of love and community consecrated by the fast of faithful believers is truly touching. I would highly encourage anyone who has the opportunity to attend a community Iftar.
So why do Muslims observe Ramadan?
For followers of Islam, fasting isn’t just a good thing to do-it’s a requirement, or pillar of faith. You may have heard of the Five Pillars of Islam. Fasting (Sawm) was taught by the prophet Muhammad as a way to increase devotion to God.
“O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous” (Quran 2:183)
The practice of fasting is common to many religions and acts as a way to elevate the self or the soul above physical wants and needs to access a higher level of spirituality. Jewish men and women fast at Yom Kippur, Buddhist fast on Vesak, and many Christians fast as part of Lent and the Holy Weeks. Muslims fast specifically during the holy month of Ramadan to commemorate the month in which the Qur’an, the holy text of Islam, was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. Muslims also fast at other times throughout the year to ask for forgiveness of sins.
What can we learn from Ramadan?
One of the most inspiring aspects of witnessing my Muslim friends’ observance of Ramadan is their cheerful obedience. I have asked them if it is hard to fast while working or going about their daily activities while others may give little or no thought to their religious practice. But they always respond with a smile that it is a blessing to fast. I have never heard them complain about the long, hot days when Ramadan falls in the summer due to the lunar calendar.
As we have held interfaith meetings in past years during the fast, there is no grumbling or complaint when others enjoy a snack or a meal. When asked if it is hard to fast for 30 consecutive days, I am met with responses of nothing but gratitude, giving me an increased devotion for the season and how I can learn lessons from it in my own life.
As a young person growing up, the approach of Fast Sunday often solicited dread as I contemplated the hours of stomach pains surely ahead. Even on a Sunday surrounded by fellow participants in the fast, when a younger sibling enjoyed a bowl of Cap’n Crunch cereal, I would lament the unfairness of my plight. Now as an adult, I am ashamed to admit how often I note the approach of the first Sunday of the month as I would an upcoming visit to the dentist-necessary, but not desired.
Now imagine a blend of fast Sunday and the Christmas season! Think about what it would be like with all the sights, smells, traditions, and memories of that special time connected with the increased spiritual devotion from fasting. What if the night before fast Sunday felt like Christmas Eve? Wouldn’t that be the coolest?
What I have learned from Ramadan is how to celebrate the fast! I have discovered how to be more intentional about my devotion and how to be grateful for the sacrifice fasting requires. Here are some elements of Ramadan that my family and I have incorporated into our fast Sundays to make them more meaningful-I hope they will be useful for your own fasting observance, too.
Create fun and memorable traditions.
Make it a day to celebrate and look forward to each month!
Have a special meal at a designated time to break your fast. Use special plates. Make a favorite or meaningful meal. Wait until sundown and eat by candlelight. Create a tradition around the meal.
Gather with family and friends to break the fast. Treat it like a birthday or special occasion, one to be shared!
Start your fast with increased intention.
Central to the Islamic practice of fasting is the concept of intention. Muslims offer special prayers (Dua) to state their intention before fasting.
According to the Qu’ran, “He who does not make the intention for fasting before dawn, there is no fast for him.”
In October 2004 general conference, Elder Carl B. Pratt of the First Quorum of the Seventy spoke about the importance of Church members fasting with real intent.
“If we have a special purpose in our fasting, the fast will have much more meaning,” he said. “Perhaps we can take time as a family before beginning our fast to talk about what we hope to accomplish by this fast. This could be done in a family home evening the week before fast Sunday or in a brief family meeting at the time of family prayer. When we fast with purpose, we have something to focus our attention on besides our hunger.”
Make it about more than just food.
When Muslims observe Ramadan, they don’t just refrain from food or drink. They also refer to it as a fast from all wrongdoing. As Latter-day Saints, we can also pray for greater charity and patience to become our best selves while fasting rather than giving into the “hangry” feelings. Additionally, it should be noted that all Muslims who are unable to fast for medical or other reasons can find spiritual ways to make the day meaningful for them.
Increase prayer and worship.
One thing my Muslim friends have mentioned they like about Ramadan is how much more time they devote to study and prayer. Although their worship looks different this year due to the coronavirus, typically mosques become a hive of activity with special devotional studies, lectures, and extra prayers. Most people also commit to reading the Qu’ran more intensely, with some reading the book in its entirety during the month.
Sometimes, fast Sundays can feel like they’re more about survival than study. Dedicating extra time to prayer and scripture study during fasting can enhance your experience. In October 1974 general conference, President Ezra Taft Benson admonished, “To make a fast most fruitful, it should be coupled with prayer and meditation; physical work should be held to a minimum, and it’s a blessing if one can ponder on the scriptures and the reason for the fast”
Find joy in giving.
Another key element of Ramadan is charitable giving (Zakat), which is another one of the Five Pillars of Islam. During the month, Muslims make charitable donations and find ways to serve and bless their community. This is similar to fast offerings made by members of the Church. But we could make this an even more significant part of our devotion? Besides giving a donation, can we reach out and bless our families and communities while we fast?
I am excited to take the lessons I have learned from my Muslim friends and from the practices of the nearly 1.8 billion members of the Islamic faith and apply them to my own. There is truly so much we can learn from one another, and I am grateful to the faithful men and women of all religions who inspire me with how they live their devotion.
To Provide concrete modeling of women from different faith traditions working together in harmony for the common good. To Empower women to take a more active role in furthering social justice and world peace. To Dispel myths, stereotypes, prejudices and fear about faith traditions different from our own. To Nurture the growth of empathy and spiritual energy that result from our projects and interfaith dialogue.
WISDOM is a Non-Profit Organization. Get involved with WISDOM!
WISDOM’s challenge is to bring together people from different faith traditions, ethnicities, races, and cultures in an atmosphere of safety and respect to engage in educational and community service projects. Let’s change our world through the positive power of building relationships!