Boise faiths reach for common ground through a summer camp for children

interfaith-singing-1Rachael Metzgar, a teenager who attends Congregation Ahavath Beth Israel in Boise, didn’t know that Muslims removed their shoes before entering the mosque to worship.

Omar Abdelnaby, 13, who worships at the Islamic Center of Boise, didn’t know about the observance of Lent, when Christians remember the story of Jesus wandering the desert for 40 days.

Lexi Forbes, 12, who goes to First Congregational United Church of Christ in Boise, learned that at the Congregation Ahavath Beth Israel they have “this big scroll … and they read from it.”

All three learned that and more about the faiths of Judaism, Islam and Christianity at an August summer camp that brought together about 20 young people — ages 8 to 14 — to spend a week learning about each others’ faiths.

Abdelnaby summed up what he learned this way: “Everybody is the same, and religions don’t really change the fact that we are people,” he said. “Some people shouldn’t really decide what the whole religion is just because of a couple of people.”

Abdelnaby’s response was just what the Rev. Kim Mislin Cran, at First Congregation Church, was hoping for. She worked with Beth Harbison, co-director of education and a teen adviser at the synagogue; Kiki Lyus, from the Islamic Center of Boise; and other adults to fashion an experience for children in which all three faiths were equal partners.

“We all wanted the same thing,” Cran said.

Across the country, amped-up rhetoric about keeping Muslims or refugees out of the country is creating tensions for faiths that are seen by many as different and threatening the dominant Christian culture. On a world stage, and even in the United States, religious groups are swept into unfolding tragedies such as the shootings in San Bernadino or in Paris.

In the face of hatred and killing, these Boise women looked for an avenue that was more inclusive, Cran said. “Maybe if we start with children,” she said.

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