On April 22, teachers, IFLC volunteers and the Muslim Unity Center in Bloomfield Hills embarked on a pioneering effort in order to continue to teach its student ambassadors about the world’s major religions.
In our age of physical distancing to slow the spread of Coronavirus, our schoolchildren are feeling the brunt of the necessary isolation. They miss their routines as well as engaging with friends and different students in their classrooms, and especially special opportunities to learn through hands-on field trips such as the kind Religious Diversity Journey provides.
IFLC Staff and volunteers were not quite sure how the first RDJ Anywhere would turn out. But in the end, the virtual trip welcomed 108 students (with some of their parents joining on the Zoom call) representing 14 schools. That meant that six of the seven 2019-2020 cohorts for the RDJ program participated across six school districts and one Detroit Charter School.
RDJ Anywhere started with a welcoming presentation from Muslim Unity Center member and longtime RDJ volunteer Rouzana Hares and a thoughtful question and answer session between students and Imam Mohammed Almasmari, RDJ continues to fulfill its mission of teaching 7th graders in metro Detroit about other faiths.
According to feedback following the event, here are some takeaways from students:
There are lots of similarities Islam has with other religions
I found it interesting that Muslims believe that Jesus was a prophet.
I learned that when you go to a service you are all together and they don’t care about what you look like skin color or culture you are the same to them so they have everyone stand shoulder to shoulder.
I learned that people of the Muslim community were brilliant inventors and that the things that they made we still use today.
One of the schools included the alma mater of Imam Almasmari. Students from Holbrook Elementary in Hamtramck gave a special thanks to Almasmari, and his teacher, Sheila Flowers, was so glad to see him and proud of him that he grew up to serve his religious community in adulthood.
Here are some reasons why students (and one parent) liked RDJ Anywhere:
I liked that RDJ is taking initiative to teach us about Islam even through these hard times.
I liked that we were together, even if it was virtual. I have felt so alone.
Even though we can’t be together, we can still learn new things.
I liked that we were able to ask questions in this meeting like we usually do in any RDJ journey but this time virtually.
I could connect to the Muslim faith leaders and say hi to my classmates.
I liked how even in the middle of this crisis, RDJ still found a way to have this meeting the opportunity to immerse myself and family in different cultures from home.
As a parent, I am glad this opportunity was offered for the kids. We loved the real field trips, and I’m appreciative that the kids can at least do them virtually now.
In May, RDJ Anywhere will continue sharing more resources with its RDJ teachers and students. There will be a virtual visit to the Hindu Temple of Canton and perhaps the Detroit Institute of the Arts and the Holocaust Memorial Center.