WISDOM Newsletter – November 2013

Written by WISDOM on . Posted in Newsletters


In this issue
WISDOM Calendar
Celebration of the birth of Baha’u’llah
The Whirling Dervishes of Rumi
IONA and WISDOM Season of Gratitude
Jews and Chaldeans Coming Together for Social Action
The World Sabbath
The World Sabbath
Final Goodbyes
From Detroit to Sarajevo
Why Religion is important in Conflict Prevention
The Tree Outside Her Window
What is Faith?
Hobby Lobby Boycott
Muslim Leader Talks about the Pope
Pilgrimage to Mecca
Five Women Five Journeys
Friendship and Faith


Calendar for WISDOM and Other Interfaith Events



Thursday, November 7th

6:00 PM to 9:00 PM

Face to Faith event for High School Teens

at the Bharatiya (Hindu) Temple

6850 N. Adams Rd., Troy


Discussion about the symbolism of light and fire across the faith traditions!

Contact Gail Katz, gailkatz@comcast.net for more information


Saturday, November 9th

6:00 – 9:00 PM

Birth of Baha’u’llah Baha’i Celebration

Azar Alizadeh’s home in Bloomfield Hills

See Flyer Below for Details


Thursday, November 21st

6:00 – 8:30 PM


Potluck Dinner for the Season of Gratitude

See Flyer Below for Details


Wednesday, December 4th

6:00 PM – 8:30 PM

Coming together of Jews and Chaldeans for Social Action

See Flyer Below


Thursday, January 23rd

Face to Faith high school teen event

6:00 – 9:00 PM

SGI-USA Soka Gakkai Buddhist International Association for Peace,

Culture, and Education, 16990 West Twelve Mile Road, Southfield

Contact Gail Katz, gailkatz@comcast.net


Sunday, January 26th

The 15th Annual World Sabbath

4:00 PM to 5:30 PM with Dessert Reception that follows

Hartford Memorial Baptist Church in Detroit

See flyers below!


Saturday, March 8th

Women’s International Day

Details to be announced


Thursday, March 20th

6:00 – 9:00 PM

Face to Faith high school teen event

Birmingham Unitarian Church

38651 Woodward Ave., Bloomfield Hills, MI



                             Shrine of Baha’u’llah at Bahji, Israel


WISDOM invites you to a Commemoration

Of the birth of Baha’u’llah

6-9 PM, Saturday, November 9, 2013

At the home of Azar Alizadeh

1416 Inwoods Circle, Bloomfield Hills, 48302

                       RSVP 248-737-0952 by Nov. 8

An opening of music and prayers will be followed by a short talk on the life of Baha’u’llah by Dr. Paula Drewek, followed by dinner. All are welcome.








SUNDAY, JANUARY 26th FROM 4:00 – 5:30 PM




18700 James Couzens Fwy., Detroit, MI

Secure Complimentary Valet Parking Available!











Josh Morof


and Rabbi Dorit Edut

Will Be Receiving the 2014 World Sabbath

 Peace Awards!!











  gailkatz@comcast.net 248-978-6664



Final Goodbyes: Death, Dying and Mourning
Across the Faith Traditions


On Sunday, October 6th, 2013 the Interfaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit (IFLC) along with WISDOM (Women’s Interfaith Solutions for Dialogue and Outreach in MetroDetroit) sponsored an educational program entitled “Final Goodbyes: Death, Dying, and Mourning across the Faith Traditions.”  The Rev. Bob Hart welcomed everyone into St. John’s Episcopal Church in Royal Oak, and served as the moderator for the interfaith panel.



Bob Bruttell, chair of the IFLC, gave an overview of the educational mission of the IFLC, explaining that the afternoon’s panel presentation was part of a look at the universal experience of life cycle events.



The first presentation was given by David Techner, a licensed funeral director and owner of the Jewish funeral home, the Ira Kaufman Chapel in Southfield.
David explained to the close to 100 attendees that the greatest honor for a Jewish person is to be a member of the Chevra Kadisha (the holy society), an organization of Jewish men and women who see to it that the bodies of Jews are prepared for burial according to Jewish tradition and are protected from desecration until burial. Two of the main requirements are the showing of proper respect for a corpse, and the ritual cleansing of the body and subsequent dressing for burial. This is considered the ultimate “mitzvah” (commandment) because the dead cannot repay you in any way. The cleansing of the deceased is modeled on what we do with a newborn baby – the washing and wrapping of the baby in a blanket.  The deceased body is ritually washed and wrapped in a shroud, a white wrapping that has no pockets as you cannot take anything with you on your journey to return to God in the world to come. Earth from Israel is put on top of the body in the casket.  After the funeral the family observes seven days of mourning.  As God took seven days to create the world, we are also commanded to create a new world after the death of a loved one. At the conclusion of any service, we say the special prayer for the dead, the Kaddish, which does not mention death at all, but glorifies the name of God for giving us the ability to study and learn and to teach Torah.

Imam Abdullah El-Amin, founder and imam of the Muslim Center of Detroit and the owner of Crescent Islamic Funeral Goods and Services, was the next speaker. Imam El-Amin pointed out many similarities between Judaism and Islam.  One was the washing of the body in a ritual way.  These ablutions are done because the deceased is going to meet God. The body is wrapped in a shroud and is buried right away (within 48 hours), similar to the practices in the Jewish faith tradition. Excessive grief is discouraged.  Some Muslims even discourage women from coming to the cemetery because they may cry and wail.  The belief is that the open grieving will torture the deceased in the after-life.  Life on earth is preparation for the after-life.  There is belief in hell and paradise.  The body will be turned to face Mecca. The Salat-al-Janazah, the Islamic funeral prayer, is said four times – four glorifications to God.  Only God can give extra mercy to the deceased to allow him to enter heaven.

The Rev. Sandra Kay Gordon, Assistant to the Pastor at Greater New Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church in Detroit, spoke about death and dying in the African American Baptist tradition. Rev. Gordon said that people are encouraged to cry, as “Jesus wept.”  They are to cry but keep hope. There is a belief in the after-life – the second coming. Prayer is not so much for the dead, but for the living – to ease their pain.  The funeral can be delayed for as much as a week to wait for all the relatives to come into town. A vigil is kept up at the home with lots of fellowship and food taken to the family members.  The day after the funeral is over, the house becomes quiet and the family is left alone to feel their grief. Prior to the funeral, friends and family can come to the wake, the viewing of the body in the casket. An hour before the funeral is the “home going celebration,” the time with the family. Nice things are said about the deceased during the funeral, and then everyone makes a long processional and heads to the graveside.  Rev. Gordon made the profound comment that “We are spirits having a human experience,” in regards to thoughts about the after-life.

Raman Singh is a member of the board of trustees of the Gurdwara Sahib Hidden Falls in Plymouth. Raman explained that the Sikh faith is 500 years old, and believes in the one universal God common to all mankind. Death is not seen as the end, but a state of higher consciousness.  You strive to reach that ecstatic state with God through prayer, meditation, and serving God’s creation. At the time of death, the Sikh family makes plans for cremation, and the body is cremated along with the person’s turban, comb, undershorts, steel bracelet, and ceremonial sword – the religious items that a Sikh man is required to wear. There is a service before the body is taken away for cremation. One asks for peace and comfort for the family. The ceremony is very musical, with the idea of remaining in high spirits – as death is not supposed to be depressing. After the cremation, there is a gathering back at the Gurdwara with food.  Following this is the memorial and mourning period where the holy scriptures are read in marathon fashion over several days.
Dr. Kay McGowan is of Choctow/Cherokee background. Dr. McGowan stressed that Native Americans were denied their religious beliefs until 1978, and had to worship in secret. The Native Americans paid a high price for trying to maintain their ways. They lost their land and their people due to discrimination. Their holy place is the land and their pipe is their portable altar. Their God is neither man nor woman, but a spirit that lives in all things. There are two souls in every body – one that stays with the remains of the deceased, and one that walks on to the spirit world. The way you are when you die is how you will go to the spirit world, and It takes four days to get to that world. Some Native American Peoples believe that you go to that spirit world on the wings of dove-tailed hawks. At funerals, people do not send flowers, but pick up the feathers of the hawks and bring them. The spirit world is a sad place because no children are born there, and there is no sexual desire or food.  But this world is not about punishment or reward.  Some believe that you go through fields of berries when you die in order to get to the spirit world.  In some tribes the dead person’s name is never spoken again. Valuable things are buried with the body and because of this, there has been a problem with grave robberies. When someone dies, the hair of family members is sometimes cut and the detached hair is put in the grave.  The Native American community will come together for an annual ghost supper.  Spirits of loved ones will come back during this time. Dr. McGowan showed us all an example of a tobacco tie, which represents prayer.  Tobacco is only used in a ceremonial way; it gets burned and goes up to the creator as a way of thanks for giving us this day and putting tobacco on the earth. Braided sweet grass, which represents the hair of mother earth, is also burned. Dr. McGowan emphasized the interconnectedness of everything, and the respect of everything, including plants and animals, when they die. Sacred plants – the sage, tobacco, lavender, and the sweet grass – are used in ceremonies when someone dies.  The mourning period last for one year. Some Native Americans put the body of the deceased on a platform which goes up on a scaffold for one year.  It is then wrapped in beaver fur and buried in a pit together with other bodies. It is believed that a dog will accompany you to the spirit world.
Final Goodbyes ended with a panel of our five speakers and a question and answer period followed by refreshments.
The next Life Cycle Forum entitled “Birth and Coming of Age” will be held on March 9, 2014 at 3:30 PM at the Birmingham Community House.  Stay tuned for more information!


From Detroit to Sarajevo:

Creating Pathways to Peace Between Muslims and Jews

By Ariana Segal in the Detroit Jewish News


More than 100 Muslims and Jews from 39 countries met in Sarajevo this summer to exchange ideas, discuss hot-button issues and unite for the sake of uniting. Many of these conference participants would not have met in their lifetime had it not been for the Muslim Jewish Conference (MJC), hosted this year in what Bosnia and Herzegovina call the European Jerusalem. I was one of the Jewish participants from the U.S. I attended the conference as part of the American Jewish Committee’s ACCESS delegation. This was my second international conference as part of ACCESS, my first being an all-women’s delegation to the Women as Global Leaders Conference at the Zayed University in Abu Dhabi, UAE. I came with an academic background in Muslim and Jewish studies and in diplomacy. During committee sessions at MJC, I was reminiscing about my experience in the Tectonic Leadership Conference (TL) where young professional and student Muslims, Christians and Jews, all from Metro Detroit, spent five days and nights together to create united groups from opposite sides of the conflict who become leaders fully committed to transforming it. Our discussions on identity, Zionism, the Holocaust and the plight of the Palestinians were similar to those at MJC. I found that locally, perhaps, our most obvious obstacle to mutual understanding is our lack of engagement. For the most part, Muslims in Dearborn and Jews in some pockets of Metro Detroit do not share daily experiences. Even on college campuses, these two groups seem distant until clashing political demonstrations ensue. At TL something as simple as my showing a Muslim that I could write his name in Arabic and Hebrew and share a love of theater was enough to begin a level of trust. From there we talked about hot-button issues pragmatically. At MJC, when a Pakistani participant showed an Israeli the top of Page 3 of his passport: “This passport is valid for all countries of the world except Israel,” I smiled, happy that in Sarajevo we were united despite the exclusion policy. The mission of MJC is to deepen interest in and evoke curiosity for intercultural communication and interfaith issues, in particular Muslim-Jewish relations. The MJC seeks to expand its visibility and extend its vibrant network of dialogue and intercultural communication in order to move closer to its goal of becoming a global think tank for Muslim-Jewish interests. This MJC statement provoked my curiosity. What are Muslim-Jewish interests exactly? I asked Ilja Sichrovsky of Vienna, Austria, the founder of MJC. “Muslim-Jewish interests are something that we are strongly working on identifying throughout our conferences,” she said. “The most obvious one today probably is the danger of losing our traditional rights to slaughtering kosher and halal meats, and to losing our rights to male circumcision in Europe, where a big debate is taking place on several of these issues. Also, jointly fighting Islamophobia and anti-Semitism is something we identified as crucial for both communities. “This year in Sarajevo we

specifically looked at conflict transformation, gender and religion, hate speech and its influence on public opinion, and education and the effects of historical narratives,” she said. “All of those topics concern both the Muslim and Jewish communities.


Finding answers to them together is what is fostering innovative networks of cooperation, going beyond borders and religion.” Some of our shared interests are, at core. religious commonalities like dietary laws and dressing modestly. As an American today, I never felt our religious rights were at stake, but a Somali-Muslim living in Germany expressed her frustration with German policy for public teachers. She chooses to cover her hair with a hijab, face fully visible, and yet, she is not allowed to teach in a public setting for lack of neutrality. The line where religion meets state values is blurry. Jews and Muslims can agree on that. Can we also agree that for those living in the U.S., Europe or other pluralistic countries, for the sake of good neighbors, we ought to engage? At MJC we learned of Jews that sheltered Muslims in Sarajevo during the Bosnian War. We also traveled to a more solemn place, Srebrenica, the site of the July 1995 massacre where more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslims were killed under the nose of U.N. Peacekeeping. At this site, Muslims and Jews, united by the MJC, prayed for the victims. This powerful moment bonded two peoples. Across the globe, policies and history may divide us. But let’s think of the righteous Muslims that protected Jews during the Holocaust. Remember that at our most vulnerable times, we rely on others. Let us unite to protect one another. And lastly, we can take a lesson from MJC: There are no simple or quick solutions for problems such as non- communication and miscommunication; therefore, the MJC is determined to consistently exchange knowledge and experiences, share information about each other and nurture truthful interest in one another.
Ariana Segal, 27, lives in Beverly Hills. She is a graduate of Michigan State University and the interdisciplinary center in Herzliya. Contact her at Segal.Ariana@gmail.com.

      Why Religion is Important in Conflict Prevention

By Rabbi David Saperstein


In recent years, much foreign policy attention has focused on the role of religion in contributing to strife across the globe. In many fragile states, such as Myanmar, Congo and Sri Lanka, religious divisions do exacerbate strife, even where religion may not be the root cause of the conflict. Religion, however, can play an important role in peace-making and conflict prevention and resolution.

Religion connects with peace in four major ways:

  1. The ideas of human dignity and the common humanity of all, derived from the notion that all are created in the image of the Divine, are foundational to true peace. Religious concepts of redemption and forgiveness underpin key post-conflict reconciliation efforts, providing resources to help societies heal the shattering consequences of war.
  2. Interfaith protests often focus attention on peaceful forms of resistance to oppression and injustice. Think of the religious denunciation of the practices of apartheid and segregation as sins, or religious efforts to halt ethnic cleansing in Darfur.
  3. Religion represents influential civil society communities and institutions, often seen as representing unifying values that transcend disputed issues; they are often among the most stable, most trusted entities in crisis venues, capable of contributing to mediating disputes. Think of the accomplishments of groups like the Community of Sant’Egidio’ among whose achievements include successfully brokering the 1992 peace agreement in Mozambique after 30 years of civil war. Other examples are interfaith reconciliation efforts in South Africa, Muslim-Christian coalitions in the aftermath of the Balkan conflicts and ecumenical Christian efforts in Colombia.
  4. Local and international religious entities play a large and often unappreciated role in promoting education, delivering health care services and addressing poverty, all of which create conditions of hope, support to the needy and stability; conditions without which peace cannot flourish.

In almost every conflict region in the world, interfaith efforts have contributed to resolving or avoiding disputes, as well as improving the conditions of millions caught up in civil strife. However, there are limitations to the successes, impact, or consistency of these interfaith endeavors. Too often, their voices are drowned out by the raucousness of strife, cannot gain political traction, and are not a determining factor as such crises play out.

All these interfaith efforts, from Africa to the Middle East to East Asia, do so much good at the micro level, yet rarely are they able to truly change the short term destiny of countries caught up in civil war or regional strife.

Despite these limitations, it is often the very existence of interfaith groups that inspires or encourages others to move in the direction of peace, mutual cooperation and reconciliation.

Saturday, 21 September was International Day of Peace, it is fitting to remind political, business, cultural and religious leaders the greatest gift religion, at its best, has given to humanity – the vision of the infinite potential of humankind under the conditions of peace




The tree outside her window

                 By Sherri Kolade
                 C & G Staff Writer

A sapling from the white chestnut tree that brought Anne Frank solace when she and her family hid from the Nazis during World War II is planted in the courtyard outside the Anne Frank Tree Exhibit and Garden at the Holocaust Memorial Center.

It was not your average tree. It was a white chestnut tree that sparked hope inside a young girl’s heart during a time of turmoil and seemingly insurmountable suffering. Anne Frank, who died at 15 years old from typhus – a disease caused by poor hygiene and lack of adequate nutrition – during World War II in a concentration camp in Bergen-Belsen, wrote in her diary beforehand about that very tree.


In the diary’s historic pages, she describes the tree as something that gave her comfort and happiness when she and her family hid in a secret annex in her father’s company building in Amsterdam.


“From my favorite spot on the floor, I look up at the blue sky and the bare chestnut tree, on whose branches little raindrops shine, appearing like silver,” she wrote in 1944. “When I looked outside right into the depth of nature and God, then I was happy, really happy.” That diary passage was read like a blessing given before the dedication of the tree sapling referenced in the “The Diary of Anne Frank” at the Holocaust Memorial Center Zekelman Family Campus, 28123 Orchard Lake Road, Sept. 22. The Anne Frank Center USA awarded the sapling to the HMC; it is one of 11 saplings to be planted in the United States from the nearly 200-year-old tree. It will become part of a larger exhibit titled, “Looking Out Anne Frank’s Window.” The HMC will house the tree sapling as part of its permanent exhibit, for thousands of children to see and be inspired by, HMC Executive Director Stephen Goldman said. “Our exhibits create a call to action, teaching visitors through the examples of those who risked their lives to save others, and asking our guests to react to contemporary challenges such as racism, intolerance, bullying and prejudice,” he said in the release. “This tree and the surrounding exhibit will epitomize these messages, exemplifying hope for humanity.”


Irene Butter, a Holocaust survivor who met Frank, said during the event that Frank would have been a survivor, not a victim, if she had lived.

“A victim is a person who has undergone a very difficult time and holds on somehow,” Butter said, “and cannot go beyond the suffering. A survivor is someone who doesn’t necessarily forget the suffering, but tries to take advantage of (the) beauty … that life offers. And a survivor feels powerful, but a victim is powerless.” She added that under Frank’s difficult circumstances, she was able to embrace nature. “(Frank) had hope for the future, and I think that is her legacy,” she said. “That is how survivors act.” Attendee and West Bloomfield resident Karen Goss told C & G that her parents were Holocaust survivors, and the event touched her. “I thought it was beautiful,” she said of the event that drew roughly 800 people. “I thought the message of hope, through everything, and trying to find the goodness in everything, is beautiful.”


For information, call the Holocaust Memorial Center at 248- 553-2400

Photos: What Is Faith?

The Center for Interfaith Cooperation (CIC) held the city’s inaugural Festival of Faiths on Oct. 13.


It may be a difficult question to answer- “What is faith?”- but on Sunday, Oct. 13, many gathered in Veterans Memorial Plaza downtown for the inaugural Festival of Faiths to help answer that. The festival hosted more than 60 different faith-based churches, organizations, and schools, as well as an interfaith panel, a prayer service, and a stage for musical and performance arts. Our titular question was posed to several attendees, and their answers expressed the variety of beliefs represented at the festival:


“Faith is our belief in something of higher origin, spirit or significance. Faith is love, understanding and a deeper connection with our sacred self.”
-K.P. Singh, a leader in the Sikh Community of Indianapolis


“Faith is a verb-do it!”
-David Carlson, Ph.D., Professor at Franklin College, representing Shoulder to Shoulder


“Trust in power beyond ourselves.”
-Don Knebel, president of Center for Interfaith Cooperation


“Hope & Peace”
-Donald Lassere, CEO of the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville


“Faith is responding with one’s whole life to the Presence of God within and without one’s person and living God’s love in prayer and action.”
-Sister Norma Rocklage of the Franciscan Sisters of Oldenburg, Ind., representing Marian University


“Faith is the totality of humankind’s being, a combination of belief, doubt, and reason that drives both our worldview and practice.”
-Aaron Harrison, student majoring in Religion at Butler University


“Hope & Unity”
-Andrea Guajardo and Chance Lewandowski, students from Anderson University


“Faith is being a kind-hearted human being.”
-Ani Choekyi, Tibetan Buddhist nun


“There is only one God. Love for all-hatred for none!”
-Hasan Hakeem, Muslim


“Faith is confidence in the abundant possibilities of God, sometimes in spite of present circumstances.”
-Rev. Grace Burton-Edwards of Trinity Episcopal Church and St. Richard’s Episcopal School


“Faith is connecting with a higher being, which I call G-d, and having it affect one in thought, speech & action.”
-Rabbi Mendel Schusterman, Lubavitch of Indiana

  Hobby Lobby Boycotts Jewish Hanukkah And Passover

Hanukkah comes early this year. But it apparently never comes to Hobby Lobby. The national craft store owned by conservative billionaire Steve Green seemingly refuses to carry merchandise related to Hanukkah because of Green’s “Christian values,” and some Jews are taking offense.


“I will never set foot in a Hobby Lobby. Ever.” wrote Ken Berwitz, the New Jersey blogger who brought the Hobby Lobby Hanukkah flap to light in a Friday (Sept. 27) blog post. Berwitz’s outrage has spread to other bloggers who are taking Hobby Lobby to task as a store that courts the general public, but refuses to stock anything related to Judaism – even in communities with significant Jewish populations. “If they want to sell all over the nation then they must include all people within that nation,” wrote a Jewish visual artist named Abbey on a blog post entitled “Is Hobby Lobby Anti-Semitic?” In response to questions about its lack of Hanukkah items – no paper dreidels, menorah-making kits, greeting cards – Hobby Lobby emailed the following statement to Religion News Service: “Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. is currently working with our buyers over our merchandise selection. Our customers have brought this to our attention and we are currently evaluating our Holiday items and what we will carry in the future.”

Green owns more than 550 Hobby Lobby stores nationwide, all of which are closed on Sunday, the Christian Sabbath. He is also known for his lawsuit against President Obama’s health care law, which he says tramples on his religious liberty by forcing him to insure employees for medical services he objects to on religious grounds. Many legal experts agree the case has a good chance of landing at the Supreme Court. He’s also known for holding one of the country’s largest collections of ancient biblical artifacts, including what’s believed to be the oldest known copy of a Hebrew prayer book. In unveiling the book on Thursday, Green dated the item to 840 C.E., declining to use the more Christian-sounding 840 A.D. so as not to offend Jews. The Hobby Lobby Hanukkah controversy began when Berwitz learned that on a recent shopping trip his wife’s friends could not find anything related to Hanukkah at their local Hobby Lobby store in Marlboro, N.J., though it was stocked with Christmas items. According to Berwitz, one of the women asked about bar mitzvah cards, and a Hobby Lobby salesperson replied: “We don’t cater to you people.”

That story prompted Berwitz, who own a market research company and writes the “Hopelessly Partisan” blog, to call the Marlboro store and ask why it seemed to be ignoring Hanukkah, the eight-day Jewish festival of lights, which begins on Nov. 27 this year. He wrote that he received the following response:

“Because Mr. Green is the owner of the company, he’s a Christian, and those are his values.”


Berwitz told Religion News Service that he then called Hobby Lobby’s corporate headquarters in Oklahoma City, and the company confirmed that it does not stock items for Hanukkah, and did not give a reason. When he asked whether the company carries Passover merchandise, he was again told no.

“As someone with a great many Christian friends and acquaintances,” Berwitz wrote, “I can honestly say that I don’t know even one who would see the intentional exclusion of Jews as having anything to do with their religious beliefs.” Rabbi Donald A. Weber of Marlboro’s Temple Rodeph Torah says Hobby Lobby has the right not to stock Hanukkah items, and everybody else has the right not to shop there. His advice for people looking to buy Hanukkah goods: Start with the congregation’s sisterhood group, which sells Judaica.

“Then try any of the local stores which recognize and respect our traditions including, believe it or not, the Christmas Tree Shops in Freehold,” he wrote on the Reform synagogue’s website. “And if you want to buy items that are sold in Hobby Lobby, it’s your choice whether to go there or somewhere else. Personally, I’ll go somewhere else.”


Hobby Lobby’s Vince Parker, who said he “takes the owner’s phone calls and e-mails” at the company, also sent the following to Religion News Service:

“Alleged comments made by employees are currently being investigated and will be addressed accordingly. These comments are in no way indicative of Hobby Lobby culture, the owners and the operators.” He added: “Marlboro is a great city and has wonderful people and we are blessed to be a part of the community.”

Muslim leader says pope is model of
 what religious leader should be

Pope Francis, like Islam’s Sufi mystic theologians and poets, “is trying to do good for the sake of the Good One, motivated by love and compassion,” said the president of the Islamic Affairs Council of Maryland. Mohamad Bashar Arafat, a Syrian who has lived in the United States for more than 20 years, was visiting the Vatican and speaking to groups in Rome in early October as a guest of the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See as part of the U.S. State Department’s international speakers program. In an interview with Catholic News Service, Arafat said he sees Pope Francis acting as all truly religious leaders should: reaching out with respect for the human person and open to dialogue.

Arafat said the pope’s love and openness were clear not only in his choice of being named after St. Francis of Assisi, but particularly in his decision in July to visit the Italian island of Lampedusa, praying for migrants lost at sea and calling the world’s attention to the need for immigration reform, and in calling on people around the world to fast and pray for peace in Syria in early September when a military strike seemed imminent.


“From my perspective, Pope Francis is really doing a wonderful job in terms of outreach, in terms of contributing to world peace, in terms of contributing to stopping wars and conflicts, praying for better understanding,” Arafat said. “This was the message of St. Francis Assisi and this is the message of Ibn Arabi, the great Muslim scholar and theologian and poet, and this is the spirit of all the Muslim saints and Sufis around the world.” “St. Francis resonates with the Muslim world,” he said, particularly because he is credited as the first Catholic leader to dialogue with a Muslim leader; in the midst of the Crusades, St. Francis met with Egyptian Sultan Malik al-Kamil in 1219, hoping to bring peace.

Just as in medieval times, Arafat said, the world today needs dialogue and an encounter between peoples, which Pope Francis is doing. “I see Pope Francis saying the right things and setting the right tone, and also appearing in the right places at the right time,” he said.


Arafat, who runs religious and cultural training programs for foreign students visiting the United States as part of the State Department’s Youth Exchange Study Program, said seminaries and programs that train priests and Muslim clerics need to be more serious and more systematic about preparing future religious leaders for dialogue and promoting respect. He said such education is particularly lacking on the Muslim side. As for Syria, where he still has family, Arafat said, “I myself am puzzled with what is happening over there, and the only solution I see is a political solution and reconciliation.” Since March 2011, when fighting began between government forces and those trying to oust Syrian President Bashar Assad, more than 100,000 people are estimated to have died and close to 2 million have been displaced or are refugees. News reports frequently mention that the opposition to Assad is split between groups committed to democracy and fundamentalist Islamic parties.

“Islam is not part of the problem at all. It’s national and international interests that are part of the problem,” Arafat said. “Islam is about wisdom and Islam is about cutting your loses; Islam is about how you manage to survive in coexistence with others — that is Islam.” The Quran, Islam’s holy book, does not teach Muslims to espouse the attitude “I am the only one who is right and all of you are wrong,” he said, nor does it insist that every nation must be governed by Shariah, Islam law.

Detroit area Muslims make pilgrimage to Mecca

Article in the October 10th Detroit News



    Yusuf Hai said making the pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia with his wife, Amera,

during one of their religion’s holiest periods is ‘a blessing.’


Next week, Yusuf Hai and his wife will fulfill a goal required of all able Muslims: Completing Hajj, the pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad. Joining millions of others from around the world at sacred sites during one of their religion’s holiest periods is “a blessing,” the managing director from Canton Township said. “It’s a time of refocusing and renewing. My wife and I have contemplated … how to recommit ourselves to what we believe the world is truly about, which is focusing on God.” Other Metro Detroiters abroad for the pilgrimage are set Sunday to start the rites associated with the annual Hajj, which is determined by the sighting of the new crescent moon in Saudi Arabia. It coincides with Eid al-Adha, or the Festival of Sacrifice, the major holiday many Muslims begin celebrating Tuesday with prayers, gifts and charitable giving. The period commemorates the story in the Quran, the Muslim holy text, recounting the willingness of Abraham, also known as Ibrahim, to sacrifice his son to God. That will guide the Hajj pilgrims as they embark on a series of rituals over five days. From tearfully praying for forgiveness of sins to stoning a large pillar representing the devil, “the spiritual experience is unmatched,” said Imam Steve Mustapha Elturk of the Islamic Organization of North America in Warren, who will be there with a group next week.

Accompanying relatives for her first pilgrimage, the university recruitment events coordinator welcomes the chance to reflect and strengthen her spirituality. “This is just my opportunity to go and give the ultimate thanks for all of the things I have been given in my life,” she said. Sheikh Ali S. Ali, an imam at the Muslim Community of Western Suburbs in Canton Township, who left last week to guide a group on the pilgrimage, said the aim is simple: “We glorify the almighty God.” Spiritual focus also infuses local celebrations of Eid al-Adha, often observed for several days. During the period, Muslims are asked to sacrifice an animal, often a sheep, then donate a portion to the poor. Some opt to donate the cost of a sacrifice and have it done elsewhere. At Harper Woods’ Albanian Islamic Center, members will send money to a humanitarian group that will arrange meat distribution in the Balkans, Imam Shuajb Gerguri said. “We are able to fulfill our duty and at the same time we fulfill another duty, which is helping our brothers,” he said. “By doing this, people thank God we have enough ourselves that we are able to help.” On Tuesday, many Muslims also plan to leave school and workplaces to pray in their mosques as well as host festive gatherings. Parwin Anwar, a bilingual tutor from Sterling Heights, expects to prepare a rice dish for loved ones. “It’s just a time of happiness and also remembering God and a lot of prayer,” she said.

Five Women Five Journeys: How Different Are We?
 WISDOM Women together

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.
To inquire about a Five Women Five Journeys Program for your organization, contact Paula Drewek at Drewekpau@aol.com .

Check out the latest story about a friendship that crosses religion, race, or ethnic boundaries at www.friendshipandfaith.com.
Email Gail Katz at gailkatz@comcast.net if you have a personal story for the friendshipandfaith.com website!!


 1)  Go to http://www.readthespirit.com/religious-holidays-festivals/ for fascinating information about upcoming Religious holidays that your neighbors of different faith traditions may be celebrating!!

2)   Go to http://www.readthespirit.com/were-making-news/ for a listing of all the articles written about the WISDOM Book Friendship and Faith: the WISDOM of Women Creating Alliances for Peace.

WISDOM Mission Statement

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.


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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!