CNN Hero Najah Bazzy asks IFLC friends, patrons, to be ambassadors of love at organization’s 1st Virtual Annual Luncheon

CNN Hero Najah Bazzy asks IFLC friends, patrons, to be ambassadors of love at organization’s 1st Virtual Annual Luncheon

In its first virtual annual meeting and luncheon, the Detroit Interfaith Leadership Council welcomed Najah Bazzy, a critical care nurse, CNN Hero and CEO and founder of Zaman International to deliver the keynote address and kick off the organizational focus and theme for the year: Hate Has No Home Where Love Abides.
“Between the pandemic of Coronavirus and the pandemic of racial inequality, this year has hit us with a lot of reckoning,” said IFLC President Raman Singh. She said IFLC’s strategic plan reflects this reality of raising awareness of the social and racial inequities in our society during a pandemic and a divisive election year. “IFLC will continue to move forward, thinking of ways to keep people connected even though we need to remain physically isolated. It is now more important than ever to maintain connections with our faith and interfaith communities. These are people with whom we can find common values. Often, our faith communities serve as our extended family.”
Before Bazzy’s keynote, IFLC board members briefed about 65 attendees on the Zoom about the organization’s accomplishments in the past year. Particularly, IFLC worked to expand efforts in developing programs that meet at the intersection of faith and healthcare. It partnered with several healthcare organizations to offer online and pre-pandemic in-person seminars on faith-based nursing practices and how different faiths address end-of-life care options and organ donation. There is also an ongoing effort to reach out to clergy to participate in a year-long Diabetes Prevention Program.
IFLC Chair Stancy Adams said such programs would not be possible without partnerships and funding from corporations and organizations such as DTE, Henry Ford Health System, and The Nissan Foundation. In the coming year, Adams said IFLC looks forward to partnering with more organizations and foundations for both financial support as well as supporting other organizations with similar missions.
IFLC Vice Chairman Robert Bruttell introduced Bazzy as a “friend and a spiritual mentor.”
“The words healer and humanitarian just do not put enough emphasis on all that she does,” said Bruttell. “She has shown many just how to undertake intercultural and interfaith work. This is something she has performed all her life, starting when she was at her mother’s side. As a nurse, she has shown that working in the healing profession, one can transcend barriers and differences. This has been her life’s work.”
Najah gave her keynote in a quiet spot from a local hospital where she was tending to her brother who was recovering from surgery from the previous day. Giving her praise to all the front-line workers in the face of this pandemic, she said her stay with her brother in the hospital was just another reminder of how her fellow healthcare professionals push all inequities to the side and just do the work of their life-saving efforts.
“We have a long way to go in healthcare, in balancing out inequities and getting access to healthcare to all. But you can see the goodness in the efforts of our front line healthcare workers.”
Bazzy, who in 2004 founded the humanitarian organization Zaman International, based in Inkster, said all faith backgrounds have a starting point of love in acknowledging God, but the entrances may be different depending on one’s faith.
“If the starting point is the acknowledgment of this Lord, we all enter from different places. Perhaps for you, that entry point is a prayer, or your religious studies, or a significant event in your life. Whatever that point of entry is to become an agent of love, we must look back at that starting point and examine how we have evolved since then.”
Bazzy said the Detroit race riots of 1967, which she bore witness as a child of seven, greatly shaped her identity, her life goals, and her lifelong commitment to racial and social equity.
“I saw my cousins being clubbed for breaking curfew,” Bazzy said. “Seeing that violence as a child made me committed to the idea of racial inequity. But in that violence, I became bound to the great Originator, who makes no mistakes, who created all the nations and tribes of this earth to know one another.”

Bazzy’s keynote left IFLC board members and the interfaith community with two key questions, which we invite you to ponder and respond by leaving us a comment or dropping us a response to stacyiflc@gmail.com:

How is inequality and discrimination on the basis of color an interfaith and religious issue?

How does interfaith work support resilience in light of recent events?

We look forward to your responses as we continue to cope and find resilience in these historic times.

IFLC Will Continue to Create Deep, Meaningful Interfaith Relationships and Offer Hope. Here’s Your Opportunity to Help.

By Rev. Charles Packer

When I was in college, I studied the living traditions of eastern and western religions from a very broad perspective. When I entered the ministry, that interest in learning about other religions, and a desire to study them on an interpersonal level, never left me.

Rev. Charles Packer

As a native Iowan, when I moved to Oakland County in 2015, I greatly appreciated the variety of interfaith programming and educational and cultural opportunities that reflected our community’s diverse population.

It was not long before I began my involvement in the Detroit Interfaith Leadership Council. Within the organization, I began to form meaningful and rewarding friendships with both clergy and lay leaders who shared my interest in first-hand experiences as a means of learning about religion. I have cherished the friendships and conversations that IFLC events have sparked.

 Others who come to IFLC programs have also forged meaningful relationships and friendships, especially after attending one of IFLC’s signature events, such as Exploring Religious Landscapes or “Ask a” programs.

As a member of IFLC’s Community Building Committee, the “Ask a” events were designed to be as non-intimidating and inviting as possible. It involves one house of one faith inviting representatives from another tradition and honestly and graciously answering questions by attendees about how they practice and observe their religion. Over the years, the series has provided the sharing of personal insights and stories from our Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh, Pagan and Native American neighbors.

It may sound like a Christian thing to say, but by facilitating the “Ask a” series, I do believe I have found one of my callings in providing anyone in the community who is curious about learning about other faiths to take part and connect in these deeply powerful conversations.

IFLC has benefited me greatly as a pastor. After each program I attend, I bring back new insights and learning resources to my congregants. In turn, my congregation has become involved in interfaith work. This past year, volunteers at my faith community, the Pine Hill Congregational Church,  wholeheartedly dedicated themselves to interfaith work as  a host congregation for the first time to area seventh graders who learn about world religions as participants in IFLC’s flagship program, Religious Diversity Journeys.

For right now, we cannot physically gather at IFLC events. We know that can leave many with feelings of isolation. But the groundwork and the relationships that IFLC established in the years before the pandemic has allowed us to pivot and create online events. As we continue to develop virtual programming, we enable people to leave the close confinements of quarantine and shake off the isolation.

IFLC will continue to provide digital ways for us all to connect with the wider world through the exploration of different religions. In doing so, we recognize that people of different faiths and cultural backgrounds have all had to deal with some kind of loss, be it an economic one, the painful loss of loved ones, or, the spiritual loss of not being able to gather for religious services or cherished holidays.

But by keeping in touch by learning virtually together, IFLC helps us gain an understanding of how our faiths help us find resilience. This encourages me and gives me a measure of hope.

IFLC is ever thankful to our supporters. Without you, such past programming, and the friendships that result, would not be possible. With continued support, IFLC will continue to grow our outreach. It starts this fall with the launch of our new Faith and Works podcast, a new, video-enhanced lecture series that delves into how faith shapes artistic expression, and continued growth of our Religious Diversity Journeys program.

We seek to continue and expand these programs through support from people like you. Please consider a donation through www.detroitinterfaithcouncil.com , or by clicking on the Donate button below.

IFLC Welcomes New Board Members

Rev. Gerald Cardwell

Venk Hollabbi

Asim Khan

Lisa Mason

As we continue to grow our mission of bringing educational resources to Metro Detroit in order to foster better understanding between religious communities, educate the Metro Detroit community about the spiritual and religious practices of our neighbors in order to build a more beloved and resilient community, the Detroit Interfaith Leadership Council welcomes four noteable members to its board: 

  • Rev. Gerald Cardwell is an Ordained Itinerant Elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church and is an Associate Minister at Oak Grove A.M.E. Church in Detroit.  He is the former pastor of Community A.M.E. Church in Ecorse; St. John A.M.E. Church in River Rouge; and Quinn Chapel A.M.E. Church in Flint.  He served as Chair of the Metropolitan Christian Council of Detroit and Windsor Advisory Board and served on the board of the International Christian Education Association of Michigan.  He is the former Director of Clergy Relations for Michigan Faith in Action, a social justice organization headquartered in Flint. Rev. Cardwell is also a Retired Major serving in the United States Army Reserves.  He is a former accountant, field service manager and national dealer auditor for the Cadillac Division of General Motors and has worked as a new and used sales and leasing consultant for Detroit Area Cadillac Dealerships. Rev. Cardwell lives in Southfield, Michigan and has been married to his wife Betty for forty-nine years. Together they a son and a daughter and three grandchildren.
  • Venkatesh Hollabbi is a community leader and a long-term resident of Canton Michigan. He has been a Balavihar Teacher (Sunday School for children) for over 25 years for
    Hindu culture and Self Unfoldment for high schoolers in Michigan. He holds several adult study groups in SE Michigan. He is a founder member of Canton
    Balavihar (Sunday School for children). He is well known in the Hindu community in Michigan and with many temples and religious faith communities.
     Hollabbi holds a Bachelor Degree in Mechanical/Aerospace engineering and an MBA. He has held various Managerial positions for 25 years in the areas of Product Planning and program
    Management, Product Development in Ford Motor Company and the Boeing Company. Recently, Hollabbi completed a two-year Residential Vedanta course (detailed study of
    Hindu philosophy) at Sandeepany Sadhanalaya in India and in the Himalayas. Venk and his wife Veena left a lucrative career at the Boeing Company and Public Library jobs to
    pursue Vedic studies full time.
  • Asim Khan is a board member of Michigan Muslim Community Council (MMCC). Khan is originally from India and did his MSEE and MBA from Wayne State. He is involved in Diversity and Inclusion efforts in Farmington Area Interfaith Group and also at Ford Interfaith Network. He is the founding member of Tawheed Center Mosque and Chair of the Outreach Committee there. He has also served on the board for MCM/ICA – Michigan Community Mosque/Islamic Cultural Association in Farmington Hills and has also served on the board of Islamic Huda School in Franklin, Michigan. A cost engineer at the Ford Motor Company, he lives with his wife and three children in Farmington Hills.  
  • Lisa Mason is Vice President of Program Partnerships at Greater Detroit Area Health Council. With over a decade in healthcare management, Mason serves as head of IFLC’s healthcare committee, informing clergy about mental and physical healthcare resources for them and their congregants. Lisa enjoys contributing her time and talents to the community, currently serving as a board member of Common Ground, an Oakland County crisis intervention and support services agency and Partners for Health, a product of Neighborhood Services Organization aimed at helping the most vulnerable patients with complex medical needs.  Lisa is a long-time volunteer at the Detroit Institute of Arts, where she has served in a number of leadership positions, and at Manna Meal, a soup kitchen in Detroit. Lisa resides in Royal Oak with her husband; they have three adult children and three teen-age grandsons.

Karin Dains Shares Thoughts on Faith, Resilience

Karin Dains

As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints I continue to look to the future with optimism and faith.  Although the world now suffers great challenges, we all share certain needs:  the ability to worship (or not worship) freely; to maintain faith in the strength and love of families; the ability to obtain education for ourselves and our children; a fervent desire for peaceful interaction even if we do not agree with one another.  

In times of trial, rancor, and enmity, I believe that solutions can be found by turning to God.  As Russell M. Nelson, the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has said:  “We can turn to Him for healing of our hearts, for strength where we are weak, and for help to do things we simply cannot do on our own.”

I believe that we are all sons and daughters of God regardless of our birth circumstances.  During a speech at the NAACP Convention in Detroit in July of 2019, President Nelson said:  “We are all connected, and we have a God-given responsibility to make life better for those around us.  We don’t have to be alike or look alike to have love for each other.  We don’t even have to agree with each other to love each other.”  

I believe one of our key responsibilities is to learn about and to appreciate one another’s differences.  While I realize we cannot change past history, I do believe that we can create a present history that will bring joy and understanding to future generations.  As a wise Muslim sister told me when we were discussing the upheaval and animosity that was developing in some of our schools, “In school we give students an opportunity to express their thoughts and try to ease their anxiety.  However, we cannot control what they hear in their own homes.”  That is a powerful lesson to all of us.  Change begins with each individual and within each household.  I want to be part of that change.  I want my family to continue that change as we build a new and better future that holds no racial or religious boundaries.

IFLC Board Member Karin Dains is Public affairs director of the Bloomfield Hills Stake (11 congregations) of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints

This is not an official statement of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

IFLC Welcomes Imaan Singh to its staff

IFLC welcomes Imaan Singh to its staff. Singh’s primary role will help bolster IFLC’s grants and sponsorship funding. 

Singh is a public health major and global health and social medicine minor at Wayne State University. She serves as the  State Lead for Khalsa Aid International Michigan Chapter. Established 21 years ago, Khalsa Aid International strives to provide direct and immediate humanitarian relief around the world to refugees as well as victims of natural and manmade disaster and conflict areas. Khalsa Aid International’s mission is based upon the Sikh principle of “Recognise the whole human race as one.”

Singh said she is greatful for her work with Khalsa, which has given her the opportunity to work with people from all different backgrounds to develop her communications skills.

“I wanted to take what I learned from Khalsa Aid and apply it to my work at IFLC,” said Singh. “I hope to create more awareness about the diverse cultures and religions throughout Metropolitan Detroit. I am a strong believer in giving back to the community and would like my career to reflect that.”

Outside of her professional pursuits, Singh, who grew up in West Bloomfield, enjoys playing the Dilruba, an Indian classical instrument, for 11 years. She’s also an avid Detroit Pistons fan