Calendar for WISDOM and Other Interfaith Events
Exploring our Religious Landscapes
August through November
See Flyer Below
Five Women Five Journeys
Sunday, September 25, 2016
3:00 PM – 5:30 PM
Holy Cross Episcopal Church
40700 W. 10 Mile Rd., Novi
Uncovering Our Sacred Texts
September 18th 3:30 – 6:00 PM
at the Mata Tripta Ji Gurdwara Sahib in Plymouth
See Flyer Below
Interfaith Amigos – The Power of Interfaith Dialogue
An Imam, a Pastor, and a Rabbi address why interfaith dialogue is so important!
Thursday, September 22nd 11:00 AM – 8:30 PM
Alpena Community College and Alpena High School
See Flyer below!
Kirk in the Hills Fall Seminar Series
October 7th through October 9th
Featuring Amy-Jill Levine, guest lecturer.
Friday, October 7th – Keys Lecture and Dinner 6:30 – 8:00 PM at Kirk in the Hills “How Jews and Christians Read Scriptures Differently”
Saturday October 8th at Congregation Shir Tikvah in Troy, 10:00 – 11:30 AM. Special sermon and service.
Saturday, October 8th 2:00 – 5:00 PM at Kirk in the Hills
Sunday, October 9th 10:00 AM – 1:00 PM Jesus in his Jewish Context at Kirk in the Hills
See Flyers below!!
Sunday, October 23 12:30 PM – 2:45 PM (includes lunch)
Five Women Five Journeys
at First Presbyterian Church of Royal Oak
529 Hendrie Blvd, Royal Oak, MI 48067
Contact Maryann Schlie
Five Women Five Journeys Presentation
at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan
in the Renaissance Center in Detroit
on August 18th, 2016
This presentation was part of the BCBS “Celebrate Diversity” month so that employees across the state can get to step into someone else’s shoes for an hour or so and see the world from a different perspective.
Sharing Faith Traditions. From left: Lynn Garrison, Erica White, presenters Gigi Salka, Gail Katz, Amy Morgan, and Paula Drewek. Bobbie Lewis, Raquel Banks, presenter Shama Mehta, Bridget Hurd and Trish Harris
The Five Women Five Journeys panel discussion featured Five Women, each of a different faith tradition – Baha’i, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, and Muslim, who told their personal stories to help dispel the myths, stereotypes, prejudices and fears that we have about faith traditions different from our own.
What WISDOM Does: Interfaith is Challenging Myths
From Left to Right
Gigi Salka, Trish Harris, Rev. Mimi Biedron, Padma Kuppa
My name is Gigi Salka and I served as a board member with WISDOM during the early years. I currently serve on the Advisory Board. My continued commitment to WISDOM is not based only on the wonderful work that we do bringing people from different backgrounds together, but because of the strong friendships I have developed with these ladies over the years and the new friendships I make along the way. WISDOM is not a job that we do, it is who we are. It is the life we live every day, and the choices we make along the way. Saying “Salam” to a Muslim in the grocery store, enjoying an interfaith Seder with our Jewish friends, observing a Christmas mass, and celebrating with our Hindu friends during Diwali. WISDOM is a place where women bond across faith traditions by sharing their life experiences. We have shared seeing our children grow up, graduate high school/ college and even getting married; we have shared the loss of loved ones and family members; and we have stood strong together when our communities have been challenged with stereotypes and negativism.
Over the past ten years, WISDOM through our interfaith activism has strengthened our community. It is imperative for all of us to take the first step reaching out beyond our tight inner circles – it is only by stepping out of our comfort zone that we can begin to develop the relationships so crucially needed for interfaith understanding; as a friend once said: “It is only when the uncomfortable becomes comfortable that we can begin to make a difference.”
WISDOM has been the agent that provides the safe space for people to come together dispelling the fears that people have of meeting the “other” or venturing into unknown spaces like houses of worship different than their own. People are afraid to lose their own faith, they are afraid of proselytizing, they are afraid that they must compromise their own beliefs for the sake of peace. In reality, the women of WISDOM have found that their own faith is strengthened and deepened due to the dialogue with other faiths. Women are eager to share their faith traditions and find that we have more in common than we have differences. They find that peace is accomplished through mutual respect and understanding without compromising one’s own beliefs. At WISDOM we work diligently to ensure no one feels they need to compromise. For example, we take great care in scheduling our events so that they do not conflict with any religious holidays or holy days. As you can imagine, that becomes quite a challenge. Fridays are the Muslim holy day, Saturday is the Jewish Sabbath, and Sunday is the Christian holy day, including other high holy days in the other faith traditions as well. But we always make it work.
Another challenge we face, is food. Our programs always involve breaking bread together. We have found that breaking bread together breaks down barriers and gives people a chance to get to know each other on a more personal level. The challenge is making sure we are respectful of everyone’s faith tradition. During our Soul Sanctuary Program at Hartford Memorial Baptist Church and a tour of the Charles Wright Museum, we wanted to include a “Soul Food Lunch”. What is soul food? Ribs – which is pork, our Jewish and Muslim friends cannot eat, catfish – which has no scales therefore our Jewish friends can’t eat, and the salad vegetables that consisted of carrots and onions which our Jain friends couldn’t eat because they are root vegetables. But we made it work, and had a wonderful time. We strive to make everyone comfortable.
Unfortunately, despite WISDOM’s dedication to bringing people together, and the personal stories we have with each other, it is always difficult to get publicity for our programs and their impact. “Good” news doesn’t interest the media. It is the faith based communities that are the leaders in making a positive difference but it is hard to get the message out. WISDOM addresses this issue by providing resources on our website, and publishing our monthly online newsletter which details community interfaith events and articles highlighting interfaith initiatives nationally.
WISDOM is focused on dispelling stereotypes and encouraging dialogue through our signature 5W5J panel. It is a panel of 5 women from 5 different faith traditions speaking of their personal stories in their faith. For example, what was it like growing up in your faith tradition? What do you see as the role of women in your faith tradition? These personal stories form a connection with our audience and display the real friendships among the panelists without getting into theological dogma. We have presented the 5W5J program 53 times since 2008 in public schools/ colleges, libraries, hospitals, senior citizen centers, houses of worship and even at Saks Fifth Avenue. We presented all over Michigan, not just Metro Detroit, including Ohio and Salt Lake City Utah.
I will share with you an interesting story: 5W5J was first presented at the Birmingham Temple along with a potluck dinner. It was one of the first programs that WISDOM hosted. As most of you probably know, Muslims pray five times a day. During the program, it was time for the Muslims to perform their prayers, so they excused themselves, found a quite space and conducted their mandatory prayer which lasts around 3-5 minutes, and returned to programming as usual. This is a perfect example of people coming together sharing their faith stories, living their daily lives together, and experiencing the beauty of the differences and commonalities God has blessed us all with.
Another 5W5J story: WISDOM was presenting to 5th and 6th graders at a local middle school. Keeping in mind the age of the audience and the venue (a public school), the panelists made sure to present their stories in an educationally appropriate format. During the Q&A portion of the program, a 5th grader asked the question: “Why are you here? You just want to convert us.” As the WISDOM panelists always do, they reassured the student that these are personal stories and experiences of ladies from different backgrounds sharing their stories and no one was there to convert anyone. The teacher, who is known for his support of diversity and inclusion, used this as a teaching moment for his class. He explained the importance of learning about the “other” to create a more inclusive school environment and community. This incident highlighted to us the importance of the work WISDOM does. Children aren’t politically correct and most often don’t have a filter when they voice their opinions; and their opinions are usually formed from the adults in their lives. People are scared of what they do not know.
WISDOM encourages religious leaders and people of faith to prioritize the need for dialogue and not wait until a community is being targeted and stereotyped to intervene – WISDOM has developed those community relationships and is always there to stand in solidarity with our neighbors in the good times and the hard times. WISDOM helps build those bridges of understanding and friendship now – not as a reaction to certain events, but truly build an inclusive welcoming community of neighbors.
ONE EARTH WRITING
One Earth Writing, a new nonprofit focused on building bridges of understanding between teens and tweens through creative, thoughtful writing, is accepting applications for its first class of ambassadors.
One Earth Writing Ambassadors are teenagers interested in exploring their writing talent through a lens of identity. They are open-minded individuals with a desire to lead who will participate in monthly writing workshops led by One Earth Writing founder and executive director Lynne Golodner as well as co-facilitate One Earth Writing workshops throughout the school year.
The commitment is November-May. Interested teens must write a one-page letter explaining why they are interested in participating and submit a sample of their best writing here: http://oneearthwriting.org/
One Earth Writing is a new non-profit created by author, writing instructor and entrepreneur Lynne Golodner, with a goal of bringing writing workshops to teens and tweens in schools, houses of worship and community centers as a way of building understanding between cultures, races and religions.
“I have always written about, and been fascinated by, the ways in which we share common ground,” says Golodner, the mother of four tweens/teens, owner of Your People LLC public relations firm and a renowned author and blogger at www.lynnegolodner.com. “Through One Earth Writing, I hope to transform the generation coming up with ideas of similarity and collaboration and stamp out bigotry one person at a time.”
One Earth Writing is guided by a board of directors that includes Detroit poet laureate M.L. Liebler, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Stephen Henderson, writer and writing instructor Maureen Dunphy, writer and editor Lisa Brody, attorney and blogger Alisa Peskin-Shepherd and American Federation of Teachers archivist and oral historian Dan Golodner.
ABOUT ONE EARTH WRITING
One Earth Writing seeks to build harmony in the world through writing workshops that connect tweens and teens from different communities and beliefs. Through storytelling, writing and one-on-one connection, One Earth Writing builds bridges of understanding, to see how similar all people truly are. We may come from different races, religions, ethnicities, national origins, sexual orientations or socioeconomic backgrounds, but at the core, we are more similar than we are different. It is our goal at One Earth Writing to use story as a way of expanding world views, working with youth to change a generation’s perspective, so that one day, we may live in a world where we see similarity rather than difference. One Earth Writing is in the process of qualifying for 501(c)(3) status and anticipates receiving official recognition later this year. Learn more at www.oneearthwriting.org
KRAKOW, Poland – Auschwitz-Birkenau is rightly known as the world’s preeminent monument to evil, a reminder in cinder and stone of the stunning depravity of which human beings are capable. It was striking on Friday to watch Pope Francis sitting on a bench in the camp, by himself, in silence and prayer, for a remarkable stretch of time, clearly meditating on what his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI called “this place of horror.”
Yet the terrible paradox of Auschwitz is that alongside the lessons it has to teach about inhumanity, there are also chapters of deep humanity – stories of courage, and sacrifice, and the kind of self-giving love that becomes most visible, and dramatic, only in moments of terrifying hate.
In the Catholic imagination, the best-known example of that paradox is St. Maximillian Kolbe, the Franciscan priest who volunteered to die in place of a stranger at Auschwitz and was starved to death with nine other inmates in the summer of 1941. He was declared a saint and martyr by Pope John Paul II in 1982, and Pope Francis on Friday visited the cell where he died.
During his visit, Francis offered the world another powerful lesson in “man’s humanity to man” by meeting 25 “Righteous Among the Nations.”
The title “Righteous Among the Nations” has been awarded since 1963 by a commission of the Supreme Court of Israel to recognize non-Jews who took substantial risks during the Holocaust to save Jewish lives. To date, more than 26,000 men and women from 51 countries have received the honor.
The personal stories represented by the 25 people who greeted the pontiff each embody the sort of astonishing goodness ordinary people can summon when the chips are truly down.
There was Anna Bando, whose mother, Janina Stupnicka, was employed by the Nazis to manage residential buildings in Warsaw, including some in the infamous Jewish ghetto. Twelve-year-old Anna and her mother would smuggle in bread to feed starving families, and eventually they took in several Jews, providing them shelter and helping them obtain forged documents that allowed them to survive.
There was Witold Lisowski, who at 13 found his close Jewish friend, Dudek Inwentarz, exhausted and starving in a forest after fleeing a convoy transporting Jews to the Treblinka death camp. Lisowski brought Inwentarz home, where he and his mother sheltered him for several weeks until neighbors became suspicious. Inwentarz then hid in the forest, where Lisowski brought him food and clothing on a regular basis and kept him company until the Red Army liberated the area in September 1944.
Also on hand was Sister Janina Kierstan, the Mother General of the Franciscan Sisters of the Family, representing Sister Matylda Getter and other nuns from the order who were responsible for saving 500 Jewish children and 250 elderly Jews in Warsaw. One witness later recalled that it was an open secret among the Jews of Warsaw that if someone needed refuge, he or she could find it from Getter, who was known as “Mamma.”
One survivor in 1993 recalled arriving at the sister’s convent and being received by Getter, who asked what she wanted.
“I answered that the police were on my tracks and I could not go back to my apartment; that I was Jewish, and I did not know where to go with this life that was beating so desperately in my heart,” the survivor said. “From that day on I lived in the house on Hoza Street. The Sisters found me a job. I know, I saw with my own eyes, and I can attest that many Jewish people went through the convent, and especially a great number of small children.”
Getter reportedly once said that her actions were based on her religious faith, but also her basic sense of human decency. As she put it, “I am saving man.”
The lone Catholic priest among the group was Father Stanisław Ruszała, on hand to represent the parish in a village where an impoverished Catholic couple and their children were killed for saving Jews – including the couple’s son, who began to be born at the moment of execution.
Józef and Wiktoria Ulma had agreed to give shelter to eight Jews in their village, despite a constant threat of detection. Someone obviously denounced them, and in March 1944 five German gendarmes and several Polish policemen arrived at the house. They first shot the Jews being sheltered there, then killed Józef and Wiktoria, and eventually decided to kill the children too, leaving seventeen people dead in all.
In 2003, a sainthood case was opened for the Ulmas by the Polish Diocese of Przemyśl, and is currently under review by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints.
One could go on telling the stories of these remarkable people, but the point should be clear that terrifying moments of brutality can sometimes elicit the best of the human spirit right alongside the very worst.
In graduate school, a professor of mine once insisted in a moral theology seminar that Christian thought has spent too much time over the centuries pondering what’s often called the “Mystery of Evil,” and not nearly enough on what he insisted is an equally tough-to-explain “Mystery of Good.”
On Friday in Auschwitz, Pope Francis witnessed – and, of course, occasioned – a moment when the awful juxtaposition of those two mysteries was about as clear as it’s ever going to get.
Muslims in Europe Attend Catholic Mass in Solidarity With Christians
ROUEN, France – In a gesture of solidarity following the gruesome killing of a French priest, Muslims on July 30th attended Catholic Mass in churches and cathedrals across France and Italy. An Associated Press reporter at the scene said that a few dozen Muslims gathered at the towering Gothic cathedral in Rouen, near Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray where the 85-year-old Rev. Jacques Hamel had his throat slit by two teenage Muslim fanatics on Tuesday, July 26.
“We are very moved by the presence of our Muslim friends, and I believe it is a courageous act that they did by coming to us,” Dominique Lebrun, the archbishop of Rouen, said after the service.
Some of the Muslims sat in the front row, across from the altar. Among the parishioners was one of the nuns who was briefly taken hostage at Hamel’s church after the priest was killed. She joined her fellow Catholics in turning to shake hands or embrace the Muslim churchgoers after the service. Outside the church, a group of Muslims were applauded when they unfurled a banner: “Love for all. Hate for none.” Churchgoer Jacqueline Prevot said that the attendance of Muslims was “a magnificent gesture.” “Look at this whole Muslim community that attended Mass,” she said. “I find this very heartwarming; I am confident. I say to myself that this assassination won’t be lost, that it will maybe relaunch us better than politics can do; maybe we will react in a better way.”
Many of the Muslims who attended the service in Rouen – including those with the banner – were Ahmadiyya Muslims, a minority sect which differs from mainstream Islam in that it doesn’t regard Muhammad as the final prophet. Similar interfaith gatherings were repeated elsewhere in France, as well as in neighboring Italy.
At Paris’ iconic Notre Dame cathedral, Dalil Boubakeur, the rector of the Mosque of Paris, said repeatedly that Muslims want to live in peace. “The situation is serious,” Boubakeur told BFMTV. “Time has come to come together so as not to be divided.”
In Italy, the secretary general of the country’s Islamic Confederation, Abdullah Cozzolino, spoke from the altar in the Treasure of St. Gennaro chapel next to Naples’ Duomo cathedral. Three imams also attended Mass at the St. Maria Church in Rome’s Trastevere neighborhood, donning their traditional dress as they entered the sanctuary and sat down in the front row. Mohammed ben Mohammed, a member of the Union of Islamic Communities in Italy, said that he called on faithful in his sermon Friday “to report anyone who may be intent to damage society. I am sure that there are those among the faithful who are ready to speak up.” Ahmed El Balzai, the imam of the Vobarno mosque in the Lombard province of Brescia, said he did not fear repercussions for speaking out. “I am not afraid. … These people are tainting our religion and it is terrible to know that many people consider all Muslim terrorists. That is not the case,” El Balazi said. “Religion is one thing. Another is the behavior of Muslims who don’t represent us.”
Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni thanked Italian Muslims for their participation, saying they “are showing their communities the way of courage against fundamentalism.”
Dearborn mosque interfaith event helps ‘build a bridge’
by Mark Hicks, The Detroit News
Standing beneath a welcome sign in German at the Islamic Center of America on Monday night, Dearborn Mayor Jack O’Reilly told about two dozen foreigners how immigrants shaped his city. In the decades after the auto industry drew workers from across the globe, the Detroit suburb also attracted notably diverse newcomers – so much so, O’Reilly recalls hearing mothers speaking multiple languages on their doorsteps to call their children back home after playing nearby.
“We ended up being a mixture of everybody,” he said. “That’s how we became exposed to everybody.” That integration focused much of an interfaith session Monday at the mosque, which hosted German Christians in Michigan this month to visit an Alpena church with whom their congregation has maintained a longstanding “exchange” program.
First Congregational United Church of Christ has long had ties to ICA stretching back to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Since Alpena lacks a significant Muslim or immigrant population, and Germany has agreed to house hundreds of thousands amid ongoing warfare in the Middle East, church leaders wanted to take their foreign companions to a diverse city to glimpse how an influx can affect its residents over time.
“We thought: ‘Come to Dearborn and see how our communities are integrated,’ ” said the Rev. Paul Lance, minister at the church, which also had about a dozen members visiting. “Arab and Muslim culture are simply part of the culture.” The German guests were from Gelsenkirchen, a city in the North Rhine-Westphalia that already had Arab residents drawn to the industrial opportunities there, Lance said. But as their nation welcomes more Middle East immigrants, “they’re trying to come to grips with people coming into the schools and city,” he said. Europe has been struggling with what some call a refugee crisis as more than a million migrants and refugees entered the continent last year, compared to 280,000 in 2014.
Riots have involved Muslim refugees and opposition groups. Police in Germany, Austria, Finland, Switzerland and Sweden have warned women to avoid going out at night, after sexual assaults by Arab and North African refugees. In the wake of attacks in Belgium and France, concerns also linger about Middle Eastern refugees and possible ties to religious extremists. As their city deals with thousands more immigrants arriving this year alone while also facing high unemployment, the German visitors acknowledged that issues can arise. “The situation is very difficult,” educator Gudrun Leimann said.
During a Q&A session in the mosque sanctuary, the Germans and Alpena residents asked Eide Alawan, its interfaith outreach officer, about how Metro Detroit immigrants live, learn and interact with the community. When one asked about how local Muslims view extremism abroad, Alawan said terrorists represent a tiny percentage of followers and defy the holy Quran, which stresses that “if you kill one human being, you are responsible for all mankind.”
The session was key in helping shift misconceptions, said Maya Mortada, a pediatric nurse practitioner from Dearborn. “If you get to know one Muslim who’s making a difference in the community, then hopefully you can be open to seeing other Muslims and who they are and what their story is.” Later, as attendees dined on chicken and rice dishes at circular tables, Imam Steve Mustapha Elturk urged them to reject negative or inaccurate portrayals of local Muslims.
“We are one community and a loving community,” said the imam, who is active with the InterFaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit.
That reinforced what teacher and First Congregational member Priscilla Homola told others in Alpena who asked if she feared stepping into Metro Detroit mosque. “I said ‘No – these are good people,’ ” she recalled while wearing a head covering out of respect for her hosts.
Monday’s mosque visit was another positive experience for Marcia Aten, a retired social worker and church member. “We felt incredibly welcome,” she said. “People could not have been more gracious.”
The Muslims and Christians lingered for a while after the dinner – chatting amiably, even embracing and thanking each other for the experience. “This is very important for us to meet people from different faiths and really to feel in our heart that we are a big community,” said Henning Disselhoff, a minister at the German church. “We have to live together and we have to find the point that puts us together. … This is a chance to build a bridge.”