A Priest, a Rabbi, and an Imam Walk Into a Church in Dallas

interfaith-panel-2-677x451Amid a vexed political and social climate, three religious leaders in North Texas—a priest, an imam, and a rabbi—proved it’s possible to come together in times of division. The Rev. Dr. Chris Girata, Imam Omar Suleiman, and Rabbi David Stern gathered at Saint Michael and All Angels Church in Dallas last Thursday to discuss where their respective faiths diverge, and where they unite. The panel discussion, presented by the Women of Saint Michael and moderated by the Rev. Amy Heller, drew in people of all backgrounds.

The three panelists, who talked like old pals, helped facilitate a light-hearted environment. As religious leaders they have met before on more somber occasions. Suleiman and Stern, for example, both spoke at a vigil at Thanks-Giving Square following the shooting of Dallas police officers in July 2016. It was refreshing to see these men converse candidly, in more relaxed circumstances. The solidarity shown by the priest, imam, and rabbi enlightened and inspired many of the hundreds of people gathered at the church.

Sandra Klingeman, who has belonged to an interfaith group for a number of years and attended the discussion, said she has heard the three leaders speak before, and knew they were among the best faces of each of their religions.

“I think I learned more about their relationship with each other and their sense of humor about this,” Kingeman said. “Because, you know, I don’t know all of the details of Islam or Judaism but I have friends in all of them.”



‘If we were not brothers before this, we certainly are brothers now,’ a Dallas imam tells a minister

The minister and the imam had known each other barely a year.

They had met at a vigil after the mass shooting at a Charleston, S.C., church in June 2015. They had encountered each other at rallies to protest gun violence and domestic violence, to memorialize a long-ago lynching, to counter a Ku Klux Klan rally, to remember victims of the Orlando attack.

“We’ve had to come together so many times because of tragedy and heartbreak,” said the Rev. Michael Waters, pastor of the Joy Tabernacle A.M.E. Church.

As the first shots rang out Thursday evening in downtown Dallas, tragedy and heartbreak again brought them together. Waters spotted Imam Omar Suleiman in the crowd near the intersection of Market and Commerce streets, and together they fled what had quickly become a war zone.

The two men, along with Waters’s wife and several parishioners, sprinted to the nearby Omni Hotel. Waters, in a clergy collar and a T-shirt that read “Hope Dealer,” soon flagged down the driver of a Ford Excursion and offered him all of the cash in his wallet to take the group back to his church in South Dallas.