Imams Council of the MMCC condemns the shooting at the Charlie Hebdo Magazine Office

The Imams Council of the Michigan Muslim Community Council deplores the actions of the misguided Muslims who in the name of our faith took the lives of 12 people.

The terrorists stormed the Charilie Hedbo magazine offices yesterday killing journalists, including its founder, Charlie Hebdo, and its current editor-in-chief.  Neither God, nor Muhammad, whom they thought are defending, nor the overwhelming majority of Muslims would sanction such a heinous crime.

The perpetrators must be brought to justice and face the consequences of their crime against humanity.

Cartoons that depict a Prophet to 1.5 billion Muslims as “terrorist” or an enemy is indeed offensive to all Muslims. However, Muslims need to be cognizant of the teachings of the Qur’an and Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam.

The Qur’an teaches, “Good and evil cannot be equal. Repel evil with what is better and your enemy will become as close as an old and valued friend” (41:34). Upon returning to his birth place, Mecca, granting general amnesty the Prophet addressed the people, “You have been my very unreasonable countrymen. You refuted my prophethood and turned me out of my house. And when I took refuge in a far-off place, you rose to fight against me. However, in spite of all these crimes of yours, I forgive all of you and make you free and declare that you may go after the pursuits of your life.”

We ask all people of conscience to not paint the entire Muslim people with the same brush.  The Imams strongly urge peaceful dialogue with Muslim leaders.

The whole world is grieved over those who lost their lives and so do the Imams. We ask all citizens to refrain from violence and promote peace. Neither war nor revenge work for peace. Dialogue is the only way to peace.

On behalf of the Imams and the Muslim community we offer our condolences and deepest sympathy to the family of the victims as we pray for peace and a world free of hate and bigotry.

Imam Mohammad Elahi

Imam Mustapha Elturk                   

MMCC’s Imams’ Council Co-chairs 

The Imams’ Council of the Michigan Muslim Community Council represents a coalition of Muslim religious leaders (imams) in Southeast Michigan.

MMCC MISSION:

1. Promote unity and cooperation among the diverse Muslim communities, cultures, ethnic backgrounds and races by convening and mobilizing the Muslim community

2. To promote the best Islamic and American values through advocacy, and organizing service, education and partnerships and coalitions with ethnic racial, religious, education and civic organizations, government and the media others

3. Pursue social justice, improve human relations and uphold human rights in America  

Posted on January 12, 2015 .

The 16th Annual World Sabbath at Adat Shalom Synagogue on January 25th

The Sixteenth Annual World Sabbath Celebration is coming to Adat Shalom Synagogue in Farmington Hills on Sunday January 25th, 2015 from 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm.  The World Sabbath is an interfaith event. Its mission is to teach our diverse Metro Detroit population that building a community of justice, equality, respect and peace is a calling we all share – all of us, regardless of our faith traditions.

 Each year the World Sabbath Peace Award is given to someone who serves that mission by bringing people together to build community. This year the World Sabbath is honoring IFLC president Robert Bruttell. Last year’s awardees were Detroit Interfaith Outreach Network’s Rabbi Dorit Edut and college student Josh Morof, who founded the teen interfaith initiative called Face to Faith.

The World Sabbath interfaith service began in 1999 as a response to the wars raging around the world.  The Rev. Rod Reinhart, an Episcopal priest, and Father Ed Mullins, priest at Christ Church Cranbrook in Bloomfield Hills, joined in creating a celebration that would call on all religious groups, races, ethnic groups and nations to create an interfaith holy day of peace and reconciliation. When Rev. Reinhart moved to Chicago, Gail Katz, a Jewish interfaith activist, took over as the Chairperson of the World Sabbath.  Gail’s background as an elementary and middle school teacher and diversity club sponsor inspired her to focus World Sabbath on the participation of youth and young adults.

The World Sabbath begins with a Jewish youth blowing the shofar, a Muslim youth chanting the Muslim Call to Prayer, a Hindu youth blowing the Conch shell, and middle school, high school and college youth giving additional prayers for world peace from faith traditions that include Jain, Buddhist, Baha’i, Zoroastrian, Christian, Hindu, Native American, Sikh, Quaker, and Unitarian.

The highlight of every World Sabbath is parade of third through seventh graders who decorate white cotton banners with their ideas about World Peace. The children proudly display these flags as they march in the processional and singing “We Are Children of Peace.” Afterwards, the banners are sewn into Children of Peace Quilts to be displayed at future World Sabbath services.

Attendees will enjoy musical offerings reflecting the diverse language, culture and religious traditions that comprise our community. In the past the World Sabbath has been enchanted by Hindu dancers, Yiddish Klezmer music, Jain songs, Sikh Shabads, Christian Dance ensembles, and Arabic elementary school drummers.

Clergy from a variety of faiths participate in the service, and all clergy are invited to join in a communal reading of the Congregation Pledge to build a world of tolerance, justice, faithfulness, and peace.

Since its inception, the World Sabbath has been held in many different houses of worship – this year will be at Adat Shalom Synagogue. Hazzan Daniel Gross and Gail’s World Sabbath Committee have assembled a diverse and exciting program. The Hillel Day School and Adat Shalom Youth Choirs, under the direction of Andrea Trivax, will sing “Hinei Mah Tov” as the World Sabbath processional of clergy, singers, dancers and the Children of Peace march into the sanctuary.

This year’s World Sabbath will include peace prayers from the Hindu, Buddhist, Zoroastrian and Native American traditions.  Dancers and singers will be performing from the Christian, Sikh, Baha’i, Unificationist, Hindu, and Jain faith traditions, along with the Imani Children’s choir from Greater New Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church in Detroit. 

This beautiful interfaith event is open to the public. Any questions about involving your children can be directed to Gail Katz at gailkatz@comcast.net or 248-978-6664.  This year’s program can be viewed by going to the World Sabbath website at www.worldsabbath.org/program/

 

 

Posted on January 4, 2015 .

2014 Thanks for the memories

Click on photo above to advance slide show.

Click here for the year in review video

Posted on December 29, 2014 .

O Come O Come Emanuel: More than a Christmas Carol in Times of Trouble

From IFLC President Robert Bruttell

In the Christian tradition the gospel writer, Matthew, asserts for us each December that the ancient prophets had foretold the Incarnation of the Lord and that he shall be Emanuel. ‘God with us.’

How can you tell in these times of so much trouble that God is with us? Was that then and this is now?

Last week, I was asked, for what feels like the thousandth time, why Muslims don’t condemn terrorism. Really? I hear condemnations by Muslims literally every week, sometimes more often. Why then are Muslims being willfully ignored? For many the condemnations cannot be heard because they don’t fit the cherished narrative of the hearer. For the majority of us, our sadly, but all too dearly cherished societal barriers, put us out of earshot. We cannot hear what we are not present to hear. 

This is an obviously perilous separation yet we choose to be separate and oblivious. I should add that I do not humor myself here. In many ways, I am no different. How could I be? Even as I strive to lessen my disconnection and isolation, I cannot magically exempt myself from our community’s default condition. 

The Gospel writer we Christians call Luke says that the angel of God made a momentous announcement to some shepherds at night while they were out in their fields tending to sheep. That is to say that the messenger of God chose some itinerant, homeless laborers living outside with their animals to receive an amazing, even miraculous proclamation:  “the good news of great joy” that a Messiah had been born in a barn and that as a result they could expect “Peace on Earth and goodwill among the people of God.”

Goodwill? Where?

My heart “trembles, trembles” this Christmas season – a feeling more appropriate for Good Friday and the Crucifixion than the news and glad tidings of great joy, that Emanuel is born as a baby in Bethlehem. My mind is on ISIS; on the decimation of Christian Churches and other places of worship in the Middle East; on the realization that all of our Internet communication can be malevolently shut down; on the fact that the dominant culture, the people we call “white” – the people who on average have 20 times the wealth of those marginalized others – these white folks really can’t, or worse, don’t wish to understand why “broken windows policing” becomes harassment, becomes Ferguson, becomes the murder of police officers. I am reflecting on the itinerant homeless, laborers in the fields and doorways where they lay, keeping whatever they can fit wadded up inside those cardboard boxes along Third Street, along Cass, just a snowball’s throw from the condos and apartments that even the average hipster can no longer afford. The racialized structures of our society straightjacket us into separation and segregation. It is painfully obvious that people do not truly know one another. We are too easily satisfied by our not knowing and often smug in our absurd assertions that we can explain and understand those others. Yet living in our isolated enclaves, how could we?  

Not living together has consequences. Itinerant laborers cannot breath and police officers are murdered. This situation is costing us dearly and will cost us even more in the future.  

At this Christmas time I am reflecting deeply on how oblivious we remain to the consequences of not living together. Visiting the earth from on high, the angel of God must have known what in our time we have seen from space. We’re all on one rather small blue globe. We’re all in this together. That was their message, their glad tidings of great joy.

It occurs to me that Christmas is about a child of God, conceived by an unwed mother who was then forced to swaddle her child in a barn. Soon thereafter she and her family had to flee for their lives to a foreign land while hotly pursued by a vengeful ruler. On the other hand, I should be rejoicing that Emanuel is born to us, that we are not alone; that God is with us.

How do I find balance, find faith really, as we face these unsettling challenges? I know I am not the only one feeling this way during these holy days of Christmas and Epiphany.

My hope is that our efforts together are the path forward. Somehow people of faith will meet those challenges. I am blessed that there are so many others whose faith may well be deeper than mine from whom I can learn and with whom I can join hands to meet these challenges. During this Christmas season I am asking not only what do I do and where do I go as a Christian, but what do we do and where do we all go from here?

Like other non-profit organizations we of course sent out a year-end appeal for financial support last week. There is no denying that cash is critical, but in the end, money does not by itself build connections between individuals and communities. People working together to build community are the far more precious resource. I invite all people of faith to join me in rejoicing that God is with us during the Holiday Season.  As we wish each other Season’s Greetings we should ask what does it mean that God is with us in these unsettled times? The sages of my tradition say that God is present in many ways, not least of these is through each other. And so, I am convinced, we can, among many things, help to make God present by volunteering to facilitate more dialogue and understanding. Let’s tell our office mates, family and friends that every Muslim we know has condemned violence and terrorism. Let them know that segregation and isolation in their many forms are toxic and do violence to, as well as plant the seeds for violence within our communities in uncountable ways. Let’s volunteer to embody our faith that pluralism is one of the miraculous ways that God is with us. Let’s volunteer to teach people to read and help others to acquire the skills that can end itinerant homelessness. In our way, the IFLC can become a model for how God is present in the world. That would be a good start and begin to bring joy to the world, wouldn’t it?

That is my heartfelt Christmas wish for all of us in these challenging times.

Posted on December 23, 2014 .

IFLC Co-sponsors exhibition of ritual objects at Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center

Sacred Treasures is a very special exhibition of ritual objects used and/or worn in the practice of various faith traditions.  The exhibit will encompass the Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and Native American traditions. The ritual objects will include head coverings, vestments, and jewelry, prayer rugs, prayer books, sculpture, and wall hangings, each presented with an explanation.  The objects are all on loan from members if the IFLC board and friends of IFLC.

The exhibition is being curated by artist, IFLC board member, and University of Michigan professor Nancy Thayer.  It is a joint program with the Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center (BBAC) in Birmingham.

“As a member of the IFLC board and the Education Committee it is my intention to bring to the Metropolitan Detroit community greater awareness and understanding of these faith traditions through the objects that are used in each,” says Thayer. “By collaborating with the BBAC we are able to reach a new audience and further our goals including promoting interfaith education so that the metropolitan Detroit community can benefit from the synergies and creative benefits that knowledge and understanding can provide, and encouraging and nurturing interfaith groups and networks.”  

On January 24, the exhibition will open with a public reception from 6 - 8 pm, where members of each faith community will be present to greet attendees and answer questions. The reception is free and all are welcome to attend. 

Posted on December 15, 2014 .

A Parent's Journey

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Last week wasn’t my first Religious Diversity Journey. I’ve been writing and compiling the Interfaith Leadership Council newsletter since March of this year and one of the first events I attended was the Journey program at Dearborn’s Islamic Center of America (ICOA). Journeys is a program in which 7th grade students from middle schools around the community tour different houses of worship and learn about their faith traditions.

I was delighted and impressed with the vision of the program, and with its execution.  In a world where most kids seem glued to one kind of screen or another, immersed in what seems (to my jaded old eyes) to be mostly tripe, it was a pleasure to see a room full of seventh graders engaged in something that was meaningful and deeply important, and which they seemed to be enjoying.

But last week’s journey was special for me, as it was the first one I took as a parent.

Religious diversity is not new to my kids. A few months ago we spent a revelatory afternoon at the Muslim Unity Center, where our guide singlehandedly, by virtue of her openness, her hijab and her very Americanness, dispelled almost every stereo-type one might have of Muslim women. I entirely enjoyed watching my teenage daughter’s face brighten with enhanced perspective as she heard that our guide had been born and raised in the US, and had chosen as an adult to wear hijab. Far from experiencing it as confining and demeaning, she said she felt that it provided her the liberty to not worry about her hair, and respect from those who instantly identified her as a serious religious person, and not the type of object that billboard lingerie models, and girls that emulate them, become by exposing themselves.

Like many religious communities, the Jewish community in which I grew up has a tendency towards exclusivity. I’ll admit that I grew up feeling discomfort rather than communal joy from the time the first Christmas lights went up and the carols started playing in the grocery stores to the blessed moment when the season ended and I could go back to the illusion that I was not a perennial outsider in a country I was uncomfortable regarding as my own.

I grew up tolerating, but not accepting or understanding any other faith. But I was lucky to have been born with a curiosity that led me into conversations that expanded my worldview, blurring and eventually erasing the lines between me and “them.” My own interfaith journey began by accidentally learning the value of the kind of candid conversations that IFLC works to encourage through these journeys.

During that first journey at the ICOA, I happened into the ladies’ rest room and was privy to a short exchange between one of the participants and a student from the Maya school, who had come in and taken off her hijab. The two young strangers stood in front of the mirror quite casually talking about their hair like any two middle-schoolers in any girls’ bathroom. And I resolved at that moment that my daughter Ruby, who was then a sixth grader at Abbott Middle School would participate in this year’s journey.

I grew up in West Bloomfield, have driven by Kirk in the Hills too many times to count, and have marveled at it from the road, but never actually imagined going in. It was, after all, a church. When I heard that the Abbott RDJ participants were going there, I suddenly realized how very, very much I wanted to go into that magical looking place.

I was not disappointed.

It is a fit tribute to God almighty, in my opinion, every detail designed by its founder, Colonel Edwin George, to create a celebratory sacred space.

I don’t know what the students did or did not learn on this journey. But the very feel of it, I believe, must have communicated to their hearts that it was created as a place to connect to that which is holy.

On my own journey, I have learned that that place in our hearts, when we open it, is where we can all connect across the lines of differing theologies and rituals.

At the end of each journey, children and parents are asked to recap what they’ve learned, and what the highlights were for them.

Personally, I completely enjoyed hearing the story of Colonel George’s commitment to creating a house of worship in the middle of what was then nowhere, visiting the great cathedrals of Europe and eventually choosing the 12th century Melrose Abbey in Scotland for his model, that it took almost a decade from 1950 – 1959 to build, that he insisted that its iconic tower be built first, knowing that if money seemed tight, the church leaders would cut there first.

The carillon in the tower is one of the largest in the world with 77 bells ranging from 14 pounds to a mind-boggling 6 tons. The church’s pipe organ has pipes reaching 32 feet and when you stand in the chancel while it is being played, the sound is like nothing I have ever experienced. Hoping that this is not heretical to someone, but if God had a throat and was singing and you could stand inside God’s throat, that’s what it might sound like. The other remarkable instrument in the church is the body of Glenn Miller, the church’s Music Director and organist, who told us, in his own unique basso profundo, about the church’s many choirs, from wee ones up to the professional choir that sings each Sunday morning.

I learned about the structure of the service, and the governance of the church from Rev. Tres Adams, and, from Rev. Dr. Carol Tate,http://www.detroitinterfaithcouncil.com/local-interfaith-events the meaning of the colors used in the church during the different liturgical seasons.

In a panel discussion, I learned that CJC-LDS Bishop and IFLC board member Greg Geiger can do an amazing recounting of the history of Christianity in less time than it takes a 7th grader’s mind to wander, and that both Rev. Tres Adams and IFLC board member Rev. Kenneth Flowers of Greater New Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist church have spent a lot of time coming up with great explanations of the trinity.

I also learned, and this may have been the highlight for my daughter, that there’s a very cute boy that goes to one of the other participating schools. That is part of the journey.

And finally, I learned that my daughter doesn’t seem to have inherited my childhood discomfort of all things Christmas. She posed for photos without hesitation in front of the Christmas tree, and seemed not the least discomfited by the intense and overt Christianness of the place. She just thought it was beautiful. So, maybe I’ve done my job, which was to start her on this path.

Having experienced RDJ as a parent, I realize that we each have our own journey. And the parent’s journey is to have this experience side by side with our kids, as they enter it, not as children, but as burgeoning adults, each of us going into the sacred spaces in our community and the sacred space in our own hearts to discover whatever we discover there.

Or maybe we’ll discover something truly useful and meaningful in the rest room. Who knows? What I do know is that this program creates these opportunities, for students and parents, by taking us on unique and wonderful journeys into these special holy places, and by connecting us to each other through our basic human reactions to their beauty and magnificence.

Click here to see more photos

 

Posted on December 8, 2014 .

Interfaith Profile: Interfaith Scholars' Colloquy

At the Interfaith Scholars’ Colloquy, interfaith dialogue is serious business. According to its mission statement, it is “a peer group of professional colleagues active in academics and scholarship who gather monthly in a semi-formal setting to explore and share themes and research of interest to the membership.  The hallmarks of these discussions are: originality, candor, mutual criticism, religious focus.” Themes discussed by the Scholars’ Colloquy are along the lines of the 2012 – 2013 theme “Religious Leadership in an Urban Setting.”

The roots of the ISC were in a group formed in 1985 by several organizations, including Marygrove, Ecumenical Theological Center (later = Seminary), the School for Ministry (now defunct), and the Episcopal diocese’s Whitaker School of Theology. The goal was a regular series of interfaith dialogs along two lines, one for clergy and professionals, the other for laity, under the auspices of the Michigan Round Table for Community and Justice (now Diversity and Inclusion). 

A sub group of the laity, composed of teachers, college and university professors, diverse research personnel, and independent scholars in diverse disciplines decided to “spin off” from the main laity series after about three years. This group expressed a serious and pervasive interest in religious experience and the role of religion in human affairs.

The group came to be seen as the third leg of this effort, the Scholars’ Dialog.  The meetings circulated among host institutions but eventually settled at Marygrove as the ideally central venue.

This group remained under the umbrella of the Michigan Round Table until sometime around 2009, when the Round Table changed its focus and the group became an independent entity. 

Meanwhile the Marygrove Religious Studies department received a private grant to support the Interfaith Scholars group, which was then renamed the Interfaith Scholars’ Colloquy (ISC). 

The ISC created their own mission statement, the heart of which is “The Colloquy provides a unique occasion for genuine religious discourse; it seeks to model intellectual discipline coupled with religious understanding.  It seeks to demonstrate authentic interfaith dialog in an atmosphere both critical and respectful.”

The ISC has thrived, and today still meets on the second Tuesday of each month September through June. Its mailing list contains approximately 60 members, including virtually every higher education institution in the region.  Membership and attendance is open by invitation or sponsorship by current members. The ISC is currently sponsored by Marygrove College and is celebrating its 27th year of continuous service.    

Posted on December 2, 2014 .

Religious Diversity Journeys at Temple Israel

Here's what the students had to say:

What are some important lessons you learned today?
 That everyone is different and everyone has different beliefs but that they are welcoming and friendly.
 Hold your judgment until you actually experience it because you could be completely wrong. 
 How similar Christianity is to Judaism
 We need to have a greater understanding of different religions and cultures and are excited to have 
started to learn about them today!
 It was a very special experience for us
 It is important to learn about the beliefs of people before you judge them
 We think that it is important to share about the holidays and traditions they have and why they
celebrate them. 
 We learned that Rabbis are funny and approachable. We don’t need to be nervous around them. They 
are open to suggestions and want to help us learn. 
 We learned that rabbis dress according to their religious orientation. Some wear robes and some don’t.
 People aren’t that different just because they are Jewish- they’re normal, just like us!


What are some of the common stereotypes you had about Judaism when you arrived? How did what you 
learned today help to correct those stereotypes?
 We thought only men could be rabbis
 We thought all rabbis had beards and big hats
 We thought that Rabbis didn’t like to talk to other people but they are very friendly!
 We thought that the rabbi would have on a black cloak and a kippah
 We thought the rabbis would be very serious- but they are nice!

 

Posted on November 24, 2014 .

Dearborn Area Interfaith Network

2014 MLK Day observance

2014 MLK Day observance

A little over a year ago, Dearborn’s long-time ministerial organization decided it was time for a change.

The group, which normally took a summer hiatus, met in the warm months to discuss its future and focus.

“We needed to reinvent ourselves,” says Fran Hayes, pastor of Littlefield Presbyterian Church and moderator of the group. “We wanted to be more intentionally interfaith in how we defined our purpose and our identity.”

They emerged with a new name and a new mission. The name was Dearborn Area Interfaith Network (DAIN), and their mission is “building bridges for the sake of loving neighbors.”

Currently, according to Hayes, the expression of that mission largely involves bringing together members of the different faith communities to start creating a network, with the intention of putting it to work on issues like health care, warmth, housing, literacy and hunger.

“It’s religious and spiritual, but it’s also a civic involvement as well,” says Hayes.

So far, the group has drawn in a broad cross-section of Dearborn’s faith communities, including representatives of many Abrahamic and animist traditions.

The challenge, says Hayes, is to get members of the faith communities to overcome the barriers of their own communities to connect.

That, says Hayes, is “the building bridges part, growing in trust, building relationships.”

In addition to the clergy and religious lay leaders that are involved, DAIN has participation from the school district and the police department, and Hayes says that Dearborn’s Mayor O’Reilly has been very supportive.

In their first year, they gathered the community for a 9/11 observance and an interfaith service for Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Prior to the DAIN’s program, the city had not had a religious or spiritual MLK observance, says Hayes. “That was a new thing for Dearborn.”

The goal was “to bring the community together and renew the dream of beloved community and justice.”

Rashida Tlaib, who is the first Muslim American woman to serve in the Michigan state legislature, was the key note speaker at the event.

“The Middle Eastern community feels an affinity for the message,” says Hayes. “There has been Muslim participation all along, but it’s never been in a mosque.” Until now.

This year, the DAIN MLK Day event will be hosted by Dearborn’s Islamic House of Wisdom on Sunday, January 18 at 3:00 pm.

Visit the DAIN Facebook page for more information, upcoming programs and to get involved.

 

Posted on November 17, 2014 .

Students "kvell" (yiddish - be delighted) over Religious Diversity Journeys

A sampling of the student feedback from Religious Diversity Journey to Adat Shalom:

1.       What are some of the most memorable things you learned today that you feel are important to share with others about this faith tradition?

Everyone is equal. Rabbis are equal to all the other members they just have more knowledge.  Rabbis are teachers.

This religion stressed the importance of doing acts of kindness to others. Family traditions are meant to bring families together.

Be kind to others because it is one of the few things that doesn’t take much energy and is rewarding to everyone.

Jew means “grateful one”

We didn’t know that Jews believe that Jesus existed

Jews care about others and serve everyone

Jews are very accepting and try to bring good to all the world. They are very grateful and we feel it is important to share how kind they are.

We really liked the idea of the mitzvah.

Helping others is a way to make the world a better place.

 

2.       What are some of the common stereotypes you had about this faith tradition when you arrived? How did what you learn today help to correct those stereotypes?

We thought that only men can be rabbis and only men can wear yarmulkes. Both are not true.

Jewish people stick to themselves- not true- they accept all people

Jewish people are arrogant- not true- we found them to be generous and kind

We thought that women couldn’t be leaders and that isn’t true. It turns out they have been a big part of the faith.

We used to think that Jews take days off school claiming that they have a holiday but really just want to skip school, but we found out that was incorrect.

We thought that you had to be born a Jew to be a Jew but learned today that you can convert to Judaism even if you weren’t born to a Jewish family.

 

What one word would you use to describe your experience today as you visited Adat Shalom? 

Kindness

Interesting

Diversity

Exciting

Meaningful

Equality

Memorable

Enlightening

Faith

Hope

Awesome

Unique

Posted on November 10, 2014 .

The IFLC Needs You!

As the world watched the twin towers of the world trade center collapse, a number of our local leaders were already planning a coordinated interfaith response to the anticipated backlash against the Muslim community. The Interfaith Leadership Council grew out of that response.

The IFLC was formed with the vision of uniting Metro Detroit’s interfaith and faith community to address that challenge and the many others we face as a community. Over the last thirteen years, what began as Interfaith Partners and is now IFLC, has grown into a broad network of faith leaders and interfaith activists.

This newsletter was designed to help each of you to be aware of interfaith events and initiatives around the community, to provide you with the information necessary to expand connections and to help create an extensive network of like-minded people and organizations. It is also one of the many means through which we increase religious literacy, with the aim of helping people appreciate our wonderful diversity and unite on our expansive common ground.

This week we celebrate this work at our annual awards dinner. This is the time of year that we ask our supporters to help provide the financial support to fund programs such as our mapping social fabrics project, Face to Faith for teens, Religious Diversity Journeys for 7th graders, our literacy and warmth initiatives, our communications efforts and many other educational and civic projects.

It is an opportunity to recognize community leaders like our honorees Najah Bazzy, founder of Zaman International, Mariam Noland, President of the Community Foundation of Southeast Michigan, and Glenda Price, President of the Detroit Public Schools Foundation.

And it is an opportunity to say thank you for the generous sponsorship of DTE Energy Foundation, and the Community Foundation of Southeast Michigan. We also thank our supporters, including Judy and Robert Bruttell, The Richard and Jane Manoogian Foundation, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, PVS Chemical, Henry Ford Health System, JAR Group, Islamic Center of America, Ed Levy, our patrons, and all the 35 congregations and many individuals who have purchased tables, ads and tickets for the dinner.

We look forward to celebrating with those of you who will be joining us. But the celebration, while the culmination of a great deal of work, is not an end. So, if you won’t be with us tomorrow night, we hope you will join us in the coming year. The work continues. So many of you are already doing magnificent work. And as we enter this next year of projects and programs, we invite each of you to join us as contributors, volunteers, and, as builders of this growing network, to bring more community members into the circle.

As we begin the mammoth task of mapping all of the community support programs being conducted by the faith community, and move into another year of rapidly expanding education programming, we need your participation more than ever.

If you can give time to help with our religious literacy efforts and education programs, or with one of our community initiatives contact Meredith Skowronski at detroitinterfaithcouncil@gmail.com.

Click here to make a donation to fund IFLC programs. 

 

Posted on October 27, 2014 .

Screening of An Open Door: Rescue of the Jews

Tess Tchou grew up in the largely Catholic and often anti-semitic Phillipines. She didn’t know any Jews, but she had heard the slurs.

“Whenever I was a bad kid or disrespectful, they would say, are you being a Jew?” says Tchou.

It wasn’t until she came to the United States as a student that the stereotypes were challenged. As a student, she boarded with several Jewish families, who included her in their rituals and celebrations.

“I had such a wonderful experience with the Jewish community,” says Tchou.

Tchou is excited to give back by organizing the screening of the film An Open Door: Rescue of the Jews, on Sunday, November 23, 2014 at the Philippine American Community Center of Michigan (PACCM). The film details the rescue of 1,300 Jews by the Phillipines.

The Phillipines, an archipelago of over 7,000 islands is located geographically at the crossroads of commerce, and therefore religion, in Southeast Asia. Although there is a strong undercurrent of pluralism, mixing indigenous animist traditions, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, among other faiths imported from the region, the citizens are 80% Catholic.

In a place where the common perception of Jews was that they had killed Jesus, and at a time when the US State Department was opposed to the move, then President of the Phillipines, Manuel Quezon offered to admit one million Jews to the Phillipines, saying “We have to save the Jews because they gave us Christ.”

“There’s an absolute respect for authority,” says Tchou of the Phillipines. “He was able to do that partly because of his position, partly because his words were persuasive.”

“Part of the sympathy for the Jewish people was a result of experience,” says Tchou. Having been through Spanish conquest, forcible “civilization” at the hands of missionaries, and US colonialism, the people of the Phillipines understood subjugation.

The film, which tells the story of how the Jews found safe haven in the Phillipines, is directed by filmmaker Noel M. Izon, as the third in his trilogy of forgotten World War II stories. stories. His two previous documentaries, An Untold Triumph and Choc’late Soldiers from the USA have been screened at Smithsonian museums. And An Untold Triumph aired on PBS.

Producer Sharon Delmendo, author of The Star-Entangled Banner: 100 Years of America in the Philippines, will be at the screening to introduce the film and take questions.

Posted on October 21, 2014 .

Getting to Know: Crescent Academy International

It’s not unusual to get a religious education. But a spiritual education may be a more rare and precious commodity.

The 470+ pre K – 8th grade students at Canton’s Crescent Academy International are getting just that.

“What sets us apart,” says Crescent Principal Sr. Kareemah Abbas, “is that we are a school with a very particular vision and mission.”

Crescent Academy International was created by educational professionals based on the goals set forth in the Tarbiyah project. The Tarbiyah Project is a document, authored by Br. Dawud At-Tauhidi in 2001, that proposes reshaping the curriculum of Islamic education to put values and character development at the core of everything that is taught. Tarbiyah refers to “the raising up of the education, making sure that our young people are raised up in a very holistic sense,” says Abbas. “It’s about developing a spiritual being in a child. We’re always relating everything back to God. We have a fundamental belief that all knowledge is sacred because all knowledge comes from God.”

One of the challenges facing Crescent is creating a spiritual community in the context of a secular society. “We teach them how to have dignity, modesty, how to keep it intact,” says Abbas, emphasizing that students are “taught the proper way to behave toward the opposite sex. We have a culture that really tries to sanctify the marriage.”

Because the mission is driven by educational professionals rather than the lay community, says Abbas, “We can do things you mostly read about in books.”

Abbas gives much of the credit with implementing the Tarbiyah plan within the curriculum of the Crescent Academy to the school’s director Sr. Pembe Yasarlar.

“It comes from leadership,” says Abbas. “As the leader of the school, she’s the one that is able to promote that. She’s deeply, deeply spiritual. The school has a certain amount of flavor that comes from her spirituality. A lot of what Crescent is emanates from who she is.”

Abbas, who is an American born convert, has been the principal of the school for five years. She had taught there previously, and says that when the opportunity came to rejoin the staff, she “didn’t even think twice about returning to Crescent.”

The school is unusual in its diversity. Fully one third of the staff is non-Muslim. Among the students and staff there is a huge range of cultural and national identities, individuals from, and descended from  countries including Turkey, Yemen, Palestine, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, Egypt, Algeria, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq.

 “I totally fell in love with the whole project.” She says the culture is very positive and collaborative. “It’s a great place to teach because you really get to teach.”

 “More than an academic institution, we’re so much more than that and we strive to be so much more than that. It’s a school for the whole child including the spirit, most especially the spirit,” says Abbas. “That’s what makes Crescent Crescent.”

 

Posted on October 14, 2014 .

Visionary Leadership Award: Mariam Noland, President- Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan

Mariam Noland grew up in a small town in Ohio, where she came from a large, charitable family, and “learned at a young age that you were expected to help others.”

She did not, however, expect to do it at a foundation. “I didn’t even know what a foundation was,” she says.

Noland says she always wanted to live in a big city, so she went to Cleveland. It was, she says “my first taste of what life was like. ”It was also, she says, where she learned that “there was actually an organized way to do good.”

Her first experience was working for the 100 year old Cleveland Foundation, primarily on education funding. She then worked at the St. Paul Foundation.

When Mariam Noland was approached by Joe Hudson about taking the helm of the Community Foundation of Southeast Michigan, she agreed to three years. That was 29 years ago.

“I’m a Detroiter now,” says Noland. “I care deeply about Detroit and this region. This is a great place to be if you want to make a difference.”

Noland defines a community foundation as “a place where people of all means can invest in the community.” 

For her the satisfaction comes in helping donors find something to support that is really meaningful. “I’m just the middle person. We’re the connector.”

In its relatively short 30 year history, the Southeast Michigan Community Foundation has grown to become the 23rd largest foundation in the country, and has given away $650 million dollars.The community endowment has over $775 million dollars which generates funding for projects in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Monroe, Washtenaw, St. Clair and Livingston counties.

“This is one of the most generous places,” says Noland. “There’s also a lot of wealth and a lot of wealthy people.” And, she says “there’s real need.”

With the economy in an upswing, Noland says “I think this is one of the most optimistic times for this city. Things are looking pretty good right now.”

Noland says she was interested in the IFLC’s work because of our efforts to build bridges and understanding.

“It’s all about doing good.”

At the IFLC Awards Dinner on October 29, we will present Mariam Noland with the Visionary Leadership Award for her work as President of the Community Foundation of Southeast Michigan and in the community, where she is also a member of the board of trustees of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Independent Sector, Detroit Riverfront Conservancy and a vice chair of the board of the Henry Ford Health System. 

Posted on October 6, 2014 .

Marriage and Divorce Across the Faith Traditions

On Sunday, November 16th, 3:30 – 6:00 PM the IFLC will continue our lifecycle series with a panel discussing and comparing different faiths’ traditions regarding marriage and divorce. The event will take place at St. John’s Episcopal Church at 26998 Woodward Avenue in Royal Oak. Cost is $10 per person. Light refreshments available.

Panelists will be:

Rabbi Jennifer Kaluzny – Jewish

Rabbi Kaluzny served Temple Israel since her ordination from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 2004. She is a proud Wolverine, having earned a degree in Judaic Studies from the University of Michigan in 1999. Rabbi Kaluzny feels lucky to be back at her home congregation. Rabbi Kaluzny shares her time at Temple Israel with the Jewish Hospice and Chaplancy Network. She has been a rabbi in the network since 2001. Rabbi Kaluzny was deeply affected by the death of her beloved Aunt in a hospice in Chicago when she was 19, and promised then that her work as a rabbi would include working with hospice patients and their families. Today, Rabbi Kaluzny helps guide Temple Israel families through the questions, decisions, and Jewish issues that might arise at the end of life. Through her work at JHCN and Temple Israel, Rabbi Kaluzny spends a great deal of time in nursing home and assisted living facilities visiting older adults and helping keep them connected to Temple Israel and the Jewish community, as well as connecting them to services in the community they might need.

Gigi Salka - Muslim

Gigi Salka is involved in many diversity initiatives. She works with local religious and teaching institutions to promote understanding among faith traditions. She has volunteered extensively in the Birmingham school district and through the Muslim Unity Center in Bloomfield Hills. As a prior WISDOM board member, Gigi has participated as a panelist on the 5W5J panel, worked on various community service projects, on board development and as Treasurer. Gigi graduated from the University of Michigan-Dearborn with a degree in Finance and Marketing. She currently works as a financial auditor as well as raising her three children to be positive contributors to their community. Gigi hopes and prays for a world full of love, peace, understanding and respect.

Rev. Deacon Kurt Godfryd – Catholic

Reverend Mr. Kurt Godfryd is a permanent deacon of the Archdiocese of Detroit. Married and the father of five children, Deacon Kurt was ordained to the diaconate on October 4, 2008 by His Eminence Adam Cardinal Maida and is assigned to St. Clement of Rome parish in Romeo, Michigan. He is also Business Officer for The Cranbrook Schools in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan; Adjunct Lecturer of economics at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan; and Vice Chairman of the Board at Alliance Catholic Credit Union. A native Detroiter, he was educated at the Jesuit-run University of Detroit Mercy, where he received a B.S. in finance, M.B.A., and M.A. in economics. His theological training was taken at Detroit's Sacred Heart Major Seminary, where he earned an M.A. in pastoral ministry.

Polly Mallory -The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Ms. Mallory has served for many years in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a Relief Society (women's organization) President, a counselor in a Stake (similar to a diocese) Relief Society Presidency, as a Seminary teacher for youth and a (Religion) Institute teacher for young single adults.

Polly Mallory is the Director of Family Prevention Services at LACASA, a Livingston County non-profit agency serving victims of child abuse and neglect, domestic violence, and sexual abuse.  She was previously the Executive Director of the Family Resource Center and has worked extensively in home visitation services for families with young children. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor and has worked as a therapist with adults and couples.

She and her husband live in Brighton, Michigan and are the parents of four children and twelve beautiful grandchildren. 

Click to sign up 

Posted on September 29, 2014 .

Community Service Award Honoree: Dr. Glenda Price

As a youngster, Dr. Glenda Price says she loved math and science. “I found it so logical and so easy,” says Price. “I have always found the hard sciences to be intellectually comforting.”

Paradoxically, the woman who says she found sociology “difficult because it has to do with people, who are never predictable,” ended up with a PhD in educational psychology.

Currently President of the Detroit Public Schools Foundation, and formerly president of Marygrove College, Price started her career in a science lab, where she began to wonder what made some people better laboratory practitioners than others.

“I ended up in education out of my desire to learn why some students learn science and some don’t,” says Price. “I couldn’t figure out what it was about the work or the individuals that made it so hard for some and so easy for others.”

What she found is that it’s a combination of factors including things like having good depth perception, which increases what one can glean from looking into a microscope.

Most importantly though, she found that some people are constantly asking questions. “They are excellent practitioners,” says Price. “In so many ways, that’s how I live my life. I’m always asking.”

Price’s resume is remarkable and long. It looks like it might contain several lifetimes’ worth of professional and volunteer endeavors, as well as leadership in numerous professional associations. And the range is broad, from serving as President of the American Society for Medical Technology to President of the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education.

“I’m just interested in a lot of stuff. I find life to be fascinating,” says Price.

Her volunteer work also represents her unlimited interests and a passion for positive engagement.

In the laboratory, she says, her intuition was one of her strengths. “I was able to just naturally know when something was wrong.”

In the community, she applies that intuitive understanding to everything from serving as secretary (soon to be President) of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, to her work on the Board of Directors of Focus: HOPE. Recently, she was appointed by the Governor to serve on the Financial Advisory Board for the City of Detroit. (Click to see Dr. Price’s complete bio)

Perhaps most remarkably, she makes time for two book clubs, recently reading “Americanah” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, about a young Nigerian woman’s experiences in the United States.“It’s the kind of book I enjoy from the standpoint of knowing who we are as individuals, who we are as a nation, through the eyes of someone who didn’t grow up here,” says Price.

 Her other book club book for September is “The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat,” by Edward Kelsey Moore, about three women who come together through the different events of their lives. 

Her busy schedule also includes regular time for her sorority group. 

“We have to make sure that younger people know how important personal connections are,” says Price. She makes a strong distinction between personal connections and the virtual word of social media. “I like to see and touch and talk to real live people.”

On October 29, the IFLC will recognize Dr. Glenda Price for her many, many contributions to the community with the Community Service Award at our annual dinner.

Click for ticket, table, sponsorship and ad information

Posted on September 22, 2014 .

Troy Alliance Against Hate Crimes

No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.

— Nelson Mandela

Reversing the tide of hate is the sacred task of groups around the world. Recently taking up the fight, civic, interfaith and religious leaders in the Troy area have formed the Troy Alliance Against Hate Crimes.

The Troy group’s aim is to engage in education, prevention and advocacy, and to be prepared to respond to acts of intolerance or hate.

“It was something we thought would be good for the city,” says Shawn Flint, who is the Police Service Aide, Community Services for the Troy police department. Troy police Chief Gary Mayer “wanted us to help get this off the ground.”

The effort was a response to department participation in the Michigan Alliance Against Hate Crimes conference. Because the police department would investigate any potential hate crime, the Alliance is a separate organization, but the department is represented by Sergeant Andy Breidenich, who has been instrumental in bringing it together.

“We’re a chair, a voice at the table with everybody. Everybody needs to have a voice at the table,” says Flint.

Dr. Bob Cornwall, Pastor of Troy’s Central Woodward Christian Church and convener of the Troy Interfaith Group is chairing the group, which includes representatives of the Troy Diversity and Inclusion Council, the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion, the Sikh Community, Congregation Shir Tikvah, and the Troy Interfaith Group, among others.

The goal, says Cornwall, is broad involvement from the faith community, the business community and the schools, as well as other interfaith and civic entities.

 “A lot of people don’t know the difference between a hate crime and a hate bias,” says Cornwall. “Hate crimes remind us that hate bias can lead to hate crimes. What we want people to do is become more aware of their community.”

Michigan’s Hate Crime law is the Ethnic Intimidation Act. The law makes it a felony to harm, or threaten to harm, a person, or the property of the person, “with the specific intent to intimidate or harass” that person “because of the person’s race, color, religion, gender or national origin. The crime is a felony, punishable by up to 2 years and/or up to $5000.00 in fines.

Cornwall says the group plans to create a certification process so that individuals and groups can say “We are certified by the Troy Alliance Against Hate Crimes that we are fighting hate bias. If you can deal with hate bias, hate crimes are not going to take place.”

The Michigan Alliance Against Hate Crimes will hold its next conference on November 14. For more information and registration, go to http://miaahc.com

Posted on September 15, 2014 .

Capuchin Ministries International Day of Prayer for Peace September 24 Prayer Service

Sr. Nancyann Turner was among the sisters who conceived the Capuchin Ministries sponsored observance of the International Day of Prayer for Peace over a decade ago. As part of the international community of Dominican sisters who were particularly aware of the plight of their Iraqi counterparts at that time, they felt that it would be good to make a statement about the importance of peace. They presented the idea to Brother Jerry Smith, Director of the Capuchin Soup Kitchen Ministries.

“He embraced the idea right away,” she recalls.

The effort expanded quickly, says Turner, soon encompassing participants of many faiths with significant participation from the Baptist, Methodist and Muslim communities.

On Wednesday, September 24, at 7:00 pm, metro Detroiters are invited to participate in this year’s prayer service at the St. Bonaventure Monastery Chapel at 1780 Mount Elliott in Detroit. The service will feature Bishop Michael J. Byrnes speaking on “Peace is the Right for all People.”

The theme of this year’s observance “Right of Peoples to Peace” honors of the 30th anniversary of the UN’s General Assembly Declaration on the Right of Peoples to Peace.

The annual International Day of Prayer for Peace was established by a United Nations resolution in 1982. In 2001, an additional resolution declared September 21 (the actual date of the International Day of Prayer) an annual day of non-violence and cease-fire.

“We will be praying over the plight of Syria and the plight of Detroit,” says Turner, who manages the Capuchin Soup Kitchen’s Rosa Parks Children / Youth program. “We will also celebrate the power of community in overcoming violence. Many faiths will be represented through readings. We invite all to join us as we pray for peace in the world and peace in Detroit. We are joining with others throughout the world on this day to pray for peace and to bless places that especially need our prayers for peace.”  

The idea of peace for all peoples is a day to day reality for Turner, working with Detroit children and families across faith backgrounds on programs like after school tutoring, art therapy, support groups for boys, girls, and mothers, reading programs, field trips, leadership training, and an annual peace camp.

“We give the children a safe place to express their feelings,” says Turner.  “These kids are the future and we want to build them up and give them power. We’re stretching their imaginations so we can address the violence in our city.”

Several of her peace camp graduates recently came back to her with proof that they could imagine peace. They wanted to teach at peace camp. “I can’t hire you till you show me a curriculum,” answered Turner. And they did.

The Day of Prayer for Peace prayer service will feature the Detroit Dearing Dance Company, which includes some of the Rosa Parks students, as well as the Capuchin Soup Kitchen Choir. One of the Rosa Parks students will offer a reflection on staying out of the violence and becoming a contributing member of the community of Detroit.

“What’s really interesting,” says Turner, is “how all of the community and all of our faiths don’t want violence. We all cherish life and want to respect life. Religion should be about life”

Each participant in the service will be invited to make a vow of non-violence, and will receive a card with a prayer and peace saying.

The most important thing for members of the community to do, says Turner, is “live peace and teach peace. Be willing to build relationships of peace and compassion with different people. We all need to be building community.”

The Capuchin Ministries are dedicated to the principals of social justice and caring for the needy that have been foremost in the Capuchin order since its origins in the early 1500s. In addition to the Rosa Parks program, the Capuchin Soup Kitchen ministries include a meal program, substance abuse assistance, an urban farm, a service center that helps those needing, food, clothing and household goods, and the On the Rise Bakery, which helps transition those formerly incarcerated or struggling with substance abuse as they reenter society.

 

Posted on September 8, 2014 .

Walk for Zaman International on September 13

In 1996, Najah Bazzy, a cardiac nurse who also specialized in cross cultural training, was working as for Oakwood Healthcare, doing home visits for newly arrived immigrant families. It was during the gulf war, and she was seeing a great deal of war related trauma.

On one such visit, she met a family with no money and a baby with a terminal cancer. When she asked to see the baby, the couple brought him out in a laundry basket lined with clean towels because they didn’t have a crib. When she asked to see where they kept the special formula needed for the baby, they brought out a picnic cooler because they did not have a refrigerator.

Bazzy knew she had to do something. Within a weekend, she had the house furnished with everything the couple needed.

This was the beginning of the Bayt al-Zahra Urgent Needs Program, the first program of Bazzy’s humanitarian organization Zaman International. Currently based in Dearborn, Zaman will move into 40,000 feet of warehouse and office space in Inkster in the beginning of 2015. But for its first 8 years, Bazzy operated it from her basement, renting a U-Haul on weekends to make deliveries.

When the couple eventually lost their child, Bazzy started the Plots for Tots initiative to provide dignified burial for the children of indigent community members.

During that time, Bazzy was also starting the Young Muslim Association (YMA) at the Islamic Center of America. For the first few years, the YMA was focused largely on helping with clothing and furniture drives, but eventually diverged into a larger range of youth activities.

Zaman is the Arabic word for time. Zaman International takes its name from Bazzy’s foundational question “What are we going to do with our time on Earth to make the world a better place?”

Much of the organization’s time is spent helping metro Detroit community members of all races, religions, ethnicities, and backgrounds. But the organization has also partnered with the International Medical Corps on projects such as Sips of Hope, which has helped to alleviate drought with wells and rain water reservoirs for 70,000 people in Kenya and Somalia. Zaman also collaborates with aid organizations to send clothing and hygiene items to people in areas affected by war or natural disasters.

Zaman International’s other programs include B.O.O.S.T - Women’s Vocational and Literacy Training Program, and a Mobile Food Pantry.

Najah Bazzy, in addition to her humanitarian work, is well known for her interfaith work, and is active as a speaker and teacher across the community, nationally and internationally.

“She has a way of making everyone, regardless of faith background feel one with her,” says Monica Boomer, Zaman International’s Director of Community Engagement.

The Interfaith Leadership Council is very pleased to be honoring Mrs. Bazzy with the Interfaith Leadership Award at our upcoming annual awards dinner on October 29.

On September 13, Zaman International will hold its annual Walk 4 Humanity 5K run, barbecue and children’s event at Dearborn’s Ford Field. Proceeds will help fund Zaman Internationals programs, which are almost entirely funded by individual donations.

“Out of all of the events we do throughout the year, this is the one that’s targeted at the whole family,” says Boomer. The children’s activities are geared, she says, toward “getting the kids to get humanitarian work on the brain.”

Organizers expect over 800 people of all ages and backgrounds from around the metro Detroit community.

Click for more information

Posted on September 1, 2014 .

The Jewish and Chaldean Community Come Together at St. Thomas Chaldean Catholic Church

 By Gail Katz, Jewish/Chaldean Social Action Initiative Chair 

On Monday evening, August 18th, about 100 Jews and Chaldeans gathered for a potluck dinner and a social action project at St. Thomas Chaldean Catholic Church in West Bloomfield.  This is the fourth year that the Jewish and Chaldean communities have joined together as part of the Jewish News and Chaldean News “Building Community Initiative.” The initiative gives both communities the chance to reach out to each other, visit each other’s holy places of worship, participate in each other’s cultural events, and bond as human beings with similar needs, wants, and emotions. 

I kicked off the evening with a welcome and a reading of Naomi Levy’s beautiful and meaningful “Prayer for Tolerance.”  Martin Manna, Editor of the Chaldean News, then addressed the gathering, sharing the history and current activities of the Building Community Initiative.  In the Walled Lake Schools there is still a teen forum that includes Jewish, Chaldean, and African American students who are working to further understanding and reduce bullying.  And Jewish and Chaldean entrepreneurs continue to meet and share business ideas.

Martin Manna gave us an update on the terrible situation in Iraq and how the Chaldean community there has been impacted. Since 2008, the Chaldean Community Foundation in Southfield has been helping thousands of refugees and immigrants coming to the United States from Iraq. But in the last few weeks, their phones have been ringing non-stop.

Many towns in Iraq have been run down by ISIS – the Islamic State in Iraq, which is fighting to take over the country. Thousands of Christians have been killed in the name of religion, and the Chaldean community has suffered terribly. For the first time in 1600 years, mass was not celebrated in Mosul, Iraq, formerly populated by Chaldeans, who have now fled or been killed. 

As the Chaldeans and other Christians fled, their possessions were taken from them, their villages were shelled, and their churches were desecrated. Martin asked the audience to go to www.helpiraq.org  to find out how to write letters or donate to the cause.  The number of Chaldean immigrants to the Detroit area, which has been about 200 people a month, is likely to double or triple due to the crisis in Iraq. 

Father Seba.JPG

Father Andrew Seba then invited everyone to join him in the sanctuary for a discussion about the Chaldean Catholic religious practices. He explained that St. Thomas Chaldean Catholic Church is the largest English speaking Chaldean parish in the world.  There are five masses every weekend – three in English, one in Chaldean, and one in Arabic. The church serves over 3,000 families, and uses its social hall for youth groups, socials, bingo and classes.  

Father Andrew explained how the Chaldean church differs from the Roman Catholic Church. According to legend, the Chaldeans were converted to Christianity by the Apostle Thomas on one of his missionary journeys to the East. In 1445, Chaldeans were received into the Roman Church and they were permitted to retain their historic rituals and the Chaldean/Aramaic language for mass and other ceremonies.

Before leaving the sanctuary,  Father Seba pointed out the beautiful ceiling with the image of God, and the Chaldean symbol below the depiction of God that included three dots for the Trinity, the Chaldean letters Y and H which stood for the Hebrew word “Yahweh,” and one dot below the letters, which represented one God!

 

Chaldean ceiling.JPG

After Father Seba’s remarks in the sanctuary, we all went back to the social hall to enjoy the Chaldean and Jewish culinary delights that everyone brought to the potluck.  We sat at a table with folks that we didn’t already know so that we could make some new interfaith friendships.  We spent the end of the evening in an assembly line, filling the many backpacks we had purchased with school supplies that each attendee brought.

Wisam Brikho, Refugee and Immigrant Consultant for Oakland Schools, took the backpacks with him to deliver to needy elementary students when school starts in September.  We all left with the wonderful feeling of having made new friends, and having learned something new about the Chaldean history, culture, faith, and current challenges. And, our interfaith initiative has made a difference in the lives of local students by giving them the backpacks that we stuffed together.  We look forward to the next coming together of the Jewish/Chaldean Social Action Initiative.

Posted on August 25, 2014 .