These Christian, Jewish and Muslim women have been meeting monthly for almost two decades. One tumultuous year couldn’t stop them.

ARLINGTON, Texas — Janice Harris Lord has always believed the more time you spend with someone, the more you find in common.

And the more you find in common, the easier it is to build a friendship.

Time spent together over food is even better.

Lord teared up as she watched friends of almost 20 years arriving for a long-awaited picnic at Lake Arlington.

Everyone brought food, wore a smile, and opened their hearts and arms to hugs.

“I thought we might have some today who wanted to mask and distance, but everybody is just so ready,” Lord said. “Ready for real relationships again.”

After the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Lord longed to do something to build bridges. She’s a Christian and she felt like she had much to learn from other faiths.

So, she invited Jewish and Muslim women to join a few Christian women for a casual meeting.

Almost two decades later, her interfaith experiment has turned into a well-organized group called Daughters of Abraham. 

There are multiple chapters across North Texas and beyond.

A global pandemic threatened to shut them down, but it didn’t.

Daughters of Abraham moved their meetings to Zoom, teaching even their oldest members to use the platform.

“Our attendance didn’t wane. We had a good 30 people on each Zoom,” Lord said.

They could only see each other virtually as a chaotic year unfolded around them – COVID, social justice protests, a polarizing election, an insurrection, and rockets flying in the Middle East.

It was enough to test many American’s faith.

FULL ARTICLE FROM WFAA TV

Abrahamic Family House in Abu Dhabi to open in 2022

The cultural landmark in the UAE capital, which includes a synagogue, a church and a mosque, is meant to be a beacon of understanding and peaceful coexistence, inspired by the Document on Human Fraternity.

By Robin GomesThe Abrahamic Family House, which encloses a synagogue, a church and a mosque in a single complex, and which is scheduled to be inaugurated in 2022, is 20 percent complete, the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity (HCHF) said in a statement on Tuesday.  The  Committee, which is also supervising the project , said it is inspired by the 2019 Document on Human Fraternity.  Constructed on Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, the project is closely followed by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam Ahmed el-Tayeb of al-Azhar, who endorsed the design, the HCHF said.

The  Abrahamic Family House derives its name from the Old Testament biblical figure, Abraham, who is recognized and greatly revered by Jews, Christians and Muslims.

Shared values
The Abrahamic Family House’s design, by architect Sir David Adjaye, captures. the values shared by Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, through three main buildings, including a mosque, a church, and a synagogue in one place. “As such, the complex innovatively recounts the history and builds bridges between human civilizations and heavenly messages.”

The names of the three separate iconic houses of worship in the Abrahamic Family House complex are officially unveiled as “Imam AlTayeb Mosque,” “St. Francis Church,” and “Moses Ben Maimon Synagogue”.   Moses ben Maimon was a prolific and influential Sephardic Jewish philosopher of the Middle Ages.

Interfaith harmonious coexistence
Besides the 3 places of worship, the site includes a cultural center that aims to encourage people to exemplify human fraternity and solidarity within a community that cherishes the values of mutual respect and peaceful coexistence, while the unique character of each faith is preserved.

The design of the Abrahamic Family House was first unveiled by Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, at a global gathering in New York in 2019, during the 2nd meeting of the HCHF. IT said the design was also presented to Pope Francis and the Grand Imam during a meeting with them in November that year.

“The Abrahamic Family House epitomizes interfaith harmonious coexistence and preserves the unique character of each religion,” said Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of the Department of Culture Abu Dhabi and an HCHF member. He said, “It personifies Abu Dhabi’s vision for human fraternity and embeds coexistence into the already diverse cultural fabric of the UAE. Overseeing the development of this iconic project is inspiring and reflective of the UAE efforts in realizing the values of the Document on Human Fraternity and fostering its lofty principles.” 

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE HERALD MALAYSIA

Putting Black at the center of interfaith

(RNS) — Every January, the city of New York hosts an interfaith breakfast that gathers my fellow New Yorkers who work to improve the lives of people in the five boroughs of NYC and beyond.

Gathered under one roof for several hours are representatives of the many different faiths that can be found in our city: Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and so many others assemble, not only to celebrate our diversity but to address pressing social justice issues, including racial equity, systematic racism and racially biased policing.

Interfaith coalitions have long taken up racial justice causes, most famously in the civil rights movements of the ‘60s, and New York’s is one of literally hundreds of similar gatherings I have attended in my life as a Black Christian minister.  

RELATED: Black religious leaders, stand with our LGBTQ family

Yet, interfaith organizations themselves have often not taken racial equity work seriously. Some of the great interfaith organizations of the early 20 century, such as the National Conference of Christians and Jews (NCCJ), have either actively discouraged the participation of Black leaders or passively signaled their disinterest by ignoring the struggle for racial justice that their Black and brown neighbors and their religious leaders were facing. 

This is despite the interfaith mingling that is woven into the history of Black people in America in traditional African religious traditions, Islam and Christianity as well as other faiths such as Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism. The National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., has more than 1,000 religious artifacts that demonstrate the breadth of faith expressions among Black people since the first enslaved people from Africa brought their Muslim faith to this country.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE WASHINGTON POST

House of One: Berlin lays cornerstone for a place for religious understanding

In the heart of Berlin, a group of Christians, Jews and Muslims is getting to work building a home where all three religions can come together. The goal is to overcome conflict and suspicion.

For years it has been just an idea. On Thursday, it begins to become reality. A cornerstone will be laid on the future site of House of One, a building project by ChristiansJews, and Muslims looking for a place to meet. Located in the middle of Berlin, the site is just minutes from some of the city’s most popular and historic areas.

“This is an important project for Berlin,” said Pastor Gregor Hohberg, who helps lead the initiative. “Jews, Christians, Muslims, as well as atheists and people from other religions, have been talking about it for at least ten years.” The city needs a place like House of One, Hohberg added, to offer the opportunity to engage one another. “It’s an extremely important symbol,” he said, calling the site a “place of peace.”

An information pavillion on the building site provided information on the project until 2019

House of One is building on 700 years of Berlin history. Its location is close to where the city began and was the site of the Petrikirche. The 13th-century church had the highest tower in Berlin, and it survived in various forms until the East German communist government tore it down in 1964. The area has been a treasure trove for archeologists, who have found remains of more than 3,000 people buried at the church, as well as ruins of other churches.

A unique project

If all goes according to plan, House of One will stand atop this history within five years. It will be home to a church, synagogue, and mosque, built around a central meeting space, to serve as a symbol of coexistence. The designs call for a 40-meter-high structure of stone and brick. The construction budget of about 43.5 million euros ($53.3 million) has been largely secured.

FULL ARTICLE FROM DW (GERMANY)

Myanmar protesters bridge religious divides to counter military coup

Peter, a young father, looked out at the sea of tens of thousands of peaceful protesters surrounding him in a sit-in at a market in his hometown of Mandalay, their bright red and yellow posters condemning the Feb. 1 military coup in Myanmar.

Moments later, security forces assaulted the crowd, firing tear gas and live rounds. “They arrived as early as possible and start brutally cracking down, shooting, beating, even firing on the street,” says Peter, using a pseudonym for his protection. “A few of our friends died, and a lot were arrested.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated with the toll from violence on Saturday.

WHY WE WROTE THIS

Religion has long been a divider in Myanmar – most tragically, in the persecution of the Rohingya. But the urgency of opposing a military coup has brought activists from different faiths together, protesters say.

Peter is Muslim. The friends he lost in the protest earlier this month were Buddhist. Despite Myanmar’s long history of discrimination and violence against Muslims by the Buddhist majority – tensions and fears the military junta seeks to exploit – today on Myanmar’s streets people are showing a powerful solidarity, activists say.

After the coup, different religious groups “are more unified than ever,” Peter says, speaking by phone from Mandalay.About these ads

In diverse and deeply pious Myanmar, protests by religious groups have deep resonance in challenging the legitimacy of those who hold power. Today’s cooperation among different faiths in backing a broader, youth-led protest movement against the junta reflects a decade of efforts at interfaith peace building since the country’s opening to semi-democratic, civilian rule, experts say.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR

PEACE FEASTS: A NEW CONNECTION FOR MUSLIM AND CHRISTIAN COLLEGE STUDENTS

Marquette University senior Anna Buckstaff said she appreciates opportunities to meet Muslims and Christians who are interested in connecting around common core values.

The Catholic from Palatine, Illinois, who attended the Lenten Peace Feast in February with Muslims and Christians, said the experience helped her reflect and deepen her understanding of her own faith.

“I really appreciated how the faiths share an emphasis for tradition and value the time spent with family and loved ones,” she said. “I have really enjoyed being exposed to different approaches to care and value God’s creation.”

She is looking forward to the Ramadan Peace Feast, online from 2 – 3:30 p.m. CDT, Sunday, April 18. College students and young professionals are encouraged to participate. Registration is now open.

Peace Feasts, new interfaith meeting experiences, offer Muslim and Christian college students in Wisconsin a chance to learn about each other’s sacred seasons, as well as to connect and build trust. The idea is for young adults of each faith to invite each other to their holiday feasts—this year during the Christian Lent and Muslim Ramadan.

The program is free to participants through financial support from Interfaith Youth Core, described on its website as “a national non-profit working towards an America where people of different faiths, worldviews and traditions can bridge differences and find common values to build a shared life together.”

IFYC was founded by Eboo Patel, a Chicago-based author, speaker and educator who said he was “inspired to build this bridge by his identity as an American Muslim navigating a religiously diverse social landscape.”

What to expect

The Ramadan Peace Feast is the second of a series. Young adults who would like to join in are welcomed, whether they attended Part I or not, said Rev. Nicole Wriedt, San Diego program director of Peace Catalyst International, who with Milwaukee-based PCI program director Steve Lied, is the Christian co-organizer for these events. They collaborate with the Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition’s president Janan Najeeb.

FULL ARTICLE FROM WISCONSIN MUSLIM JOURNAL

Interfaith leaders, lawmakers, and community members respond to rise in anti-Asian violence

SACRAMENTO, Calif. —

It was an evening of mourning, recognition and healing at Sacramento’s Parkview Presbyterian Church on Friday night.

Interfaith leaders and people of all backgrounds gathered for presentations, songs, and a candlelight vigil was held to recognize the ongoing prejudice against Asian Americans and other marginalized groups.

“The other day they were talking about that killer who had a ‘bad day,'” Francisco Dominguez, who is of Native American descent, said of the fatal shooting of six Asian women in Atlanta-area spas. “I said, since 1492, there’s been a lot of bad days.”

Other participants said they appreciated the show of solidarity at the vigil.

“I’m hoping events like this is giving us the courage to talk to our non-Asian-American friends and will help us to spread the word,” Sacramento resident Kris Sazaki said.

Christine Umeda’s family was taken to internment camps during World War II. She spoke to the value of allyship, and the historical trauma shared between different communities.

“The Muslim community and the Japanese community have been allies for some time now,” Umeda said. “After 9/11, we understood what they were experiencing, because after Pearl Harbor, all the same emotions and hatred were directed towards [Japanese Americans].”

“Any hatred that’s practiced against any minority or race is an aggression against all of us,” added Imam Amr Dabour of the Sacramento Area League of Associated Muslims.

FULL ARTICLE FROM KCRA (TV STUDIO IN SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA)

Much gained from interfaith dialogues

Brookings has been home to an interfaith dialogue group for more than a decade. Participants gather monthly during the school year to meet, greet, eat and discuss topics of mutual concern. The first few times the group gathered, people were on their best behavior, avoiding any hint of provocation and being unusually polite. But as people got to know each other better, as ignorance and misunderstandings disappeared, serious dialogue and deeper relationships developed. No question or topic was off the table.

Known now as the Brookings Interfaith Council, one can access their information and schedule on their web-site. Like many similar community groups, the pandemic has curtailed activities. But when they resume, the group will continue to be an asset to students of world religions at the university and in the larger community.

It’s always a delicious meal. Eating together is a time-tried way of bringing disparate peoples together in a welcoming atmosphere. And where else can one find in South Dakota a room where there may be Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Baha’i, Unitarians, Atheists; all interested in learning from the other?

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE BROOKINGS (SOUTH DAKOTA) REGISTER

Interfaith prayer marked by respect, not relativism

Pope Francis recently completed an apostolic visit to Iraq. Any journey of a pope is newsworthy, but this trip captured the hearts and imaginations of many. It was the first visit of a pope to Iraq.

Iraq is a country that has been the center of the world’s attention for decades, being the site of several recent wars. It is the country where the biblical city of Ur is located, the ancestral home of the Patriarch Abraham, who is revered by three major world religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Pope Francis, like his predecessors St. Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict, each have embraced the moral imperative to reach out to people of good will across the religious divide and work for understanding and peace.

During all three of these papacies there have been people that are skeptical of such outreach, mainly due to fear of “syncretism.” That is the amalgamation of different religions that can appear to be a sort of “melting pot” of religions. Each faith tradition that engages in syncretism gets added to the mix, and a new synthesis emerges, related to the component parts yet changed and different. There is a legitimate concern that this could happen in interreligious dialogue.

Vatican II in the Declaration on Non-Christian Religions (Nostra Aetate) recognized the pluralistic world of today and reflects that the Church “in her task of promoting unity and love […] considers above all in this declaration what men have in common and what draws them to fellowship” (NA §1).

The misperception between dialogue and syncretism resulted in a message of clarification 35 years later with Dominus Iesus, which clarified that engagement in dialogue does not mean surrendering the truth of the Gospel. It particularly warned against relativism, which some had inferred from dialogue that all religions are the same or are simply alternate roads to achieve salvation.

FULL ARTICLE FROM CATHOLICPHILLY.COM

Pope Francis and Islam: three cornerstones of a magisterium

A common thread links Pope Francis’ keynote speeches given in Baku, Cairo and Ur, which indicate the need for an authentic religiosity to worship God and love our brothers and sisters, and a concrete commitment to justice and peace.

Pope Francis, right, meets with Iraq’s leading Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Najaf, Iraq, Saturday, March 6, 2021. The closed-door meeting was expected to touch on issues plaguing Iraq’s Christian minority. Al-Sistani is a deeply revered figure in Shiite-majority Iraq and and his opinions on religious matters are sought by Shiites worldwide. (AP Photo/Vatican Media)

By Andrea Tornielli

There is a common thread linking three important interventions of Pope Francis regarding interreligious dialogue, and Islam in particular.

It is a magisterium that indicates a road map with three fundamental points of reference: the role of religion in our societies, the criterion of authentic religiosity, and the concrete way to walk as brothers and sisters to build peace. We find them in the speeches that the Pope gave in Azerbaijan in 2016; in Egypt in 2017; and now during his historic trip to Iraq, in the unforgettable meeting in Ur of the Chaldeans, the city of Abraham.

The interlocutors of the first speech were the Azerbaijani Shiites, but also the other religious communities of the country. The second speech was mainly addressed to the Egyptian Sunni Muslims. Finally, the third was addressed to a wider interreligious audience made of a Muslim majority, yet including not only Christians but also representatives of the ancient Mesopotamian religions.

What Pope Francis is proposing and implementing is not an approach that forgets differences and identities in order to equalize all. Instead, it is a call to be faithful to one’s own religious identity in order to reject any instrumentalization of religion to foment hatred, division, terrorism, discrimination, and at the same time, to witness in increasingly secularized societies that we need God.

In Baku, before the Sheikh of the Muslims of the Caucasus and representatives of other religious communities in the country, Pope Francis recalled the “great task” of religions: that of “accompanying men and women looking for the meaning of life, helping them to understand that the limited capacities of the human being and the goods of this world must never become absolutes.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM VATICAN NEWS