Students’ Muslim Center visit offers interfaith experience

ct-ctlfl-mgc-muslim-center-poetry-pals-3-20180117Jack, a sixth-grader from Chicago’s Bernard Zell Jewish Day School, threw himself like a rag doll onto the rubber gym floor of the Muslim Community Center Academy in Morton Grove Thursday, pantomiming a Christmas tree being felled by a gang of Irish-dancing squirrels.

The 11-year-old’s theatrics drew giggles from the dozen other pre-teens in his group — some wearing hijabs, others plaid skirts — who were brought together by the Olive Tree Arts Network and tasked with combining their imaginations into a single, wacky story.

Jack’s group was among 150 students brought together by the network’s Poetry Pals program, which every year has students from Catholic, Muslim and Jewish Day schools participate in a shared curriculum focused on creative expression and cultural learning.

Getting the students to act out fantastical stories based on their religious customs is a subtle way of building tighter bonds across faiths, according to Ilene Siemer, director of the arts network.

“This is a really important stage in kids’ lives, because they don’t really have pre-seeded notions of each other yet,” Siemer said. “So we’re able to effectively convey how much we all have in common without having to deal with any of the baggage that many adults may carry.”

Earlier this year, students from Bernard Zell and the Muslim academy visited St. John Fisher School in Chicago’s Morgan Park neighborhood, where students led presentations on Catholic rituals and beliefs.

On Thursday, it was the Muslim students’ turn to educate their peers.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE

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EGYPT: “NO SINGLE MINUTE IS INVESTED IN VAIN” – HOW A DOCTOR PROMOTES RELIGIOUS DIALOGUE VIA HEALTH WORK

Freddy_ElbaiadyFreddy Elbaiady has made history as a politician. But what counts most for the 46-year-old Egyptian doctor is his work at the Salam Medical Center (SMC) in El-Qanatir, north of Cairo. The bridges between Christians and Muslims that are built through this work are sustainable even in times of crisis.

Dr Elbaiady has many professions and ministries. He is a respected radiologist in Cairo, runs a medical centre in his hometown El-Qanatir, is a member of the local church council, and is involved in evangelical church politics in his capacity as one of the members of the Supreme Council of Protestant Churches in Egypt. To the wider public he became known in 2013, when he accepted an offer to join the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated parliament as one of the few Christian members. TV news programs were and still are happy to invite him for discussions on interreligious coexistence, the role of the churches in Egypt and politics in general. No doubt, this man has influence and prestige. But if asked to talk about himself he remains reticent.

His office in the medical centre has surprisingly very simple decor. No thick desk, no leather furniture to receive guests. Dr Elbaiady receives visitors in a small room. In the rear part there is an examination table for consultation. He is content with the front as his office. Only the wooden nameplate on the small desk reveals his role as CEO. Dr Elbaiady works at a large private hospital in Cairo, where he chairs the radiology department. From there, he arrives at SMC by around 3pm, where he works until after midnight, often into the early hours of the morning. “I get along with little sleep”, he says matter-of-factly.

FULL ARTICLE FROM SIGHT MAGAZINE

Fuller Theological Seminary Receives Luce Foundation Grant for Interfaith Dialogue Project

photo copy - Version 2Pasadena’s Fuller Theological Seminary has received a $250,000 grant from the Henry Luce Foundation for a three-year research-to-resources project that aims to shape public discourse about people of other faiths and witness, “so that such discourse is characterized by convicted civility, not fear and rancor.”

With special focus on Islamophobia and migration in a global society, this will be joint project between Fuller’s Schools of Theology and Intercultural Studies, according to a Fuller Seminary news release. The project will explore how the relationship between American evangelicals and those of other faiths has long been a tenuous and delicate one.

“We live in a divisive era, increasingly so since last year’s presidential election, with Fuller-Receives-Luce-Foundation-Grant-for-Interfaith-Dialogue-Project450heightened displays of xenophobia, especially among evangelical Christians,” says Dr. Yong, director of the Center for Missiological Research and professor of theology and mission at Fuller. “In the latter half of the second decade of the 21st century, evangelical churches across North America remain in need of developing theologies of other faiths and cultures, and practices for relating to and interacting with members of such groups, that are more welcoming than alienating.”

Principal investigators in the project include President Emeritus Richard Mouw, professors Amos Yong, William Dyrness, Roberta King, Ryan Bolger, and Kirsteen Kim, and PhD candidate Matthew Krabill.

FULL ARTICLE FROM PASADENA NOW 

Where Can Women Make Movies? The Middle East

merlin_131702723_934a19ad-fd2f-48cc-9933-f55e5cc7e835-superJumboHailed as a fresh, frank look at the lives of young Palestinian women, Maysaloun Hamoud’s debut film, “In Between,” follows three female roommates who share an apartment in Tel Aviv. There, they participate, to varying degrees, in the debauchery on offer in Israel’s cultural capital: dancing, drinking, smoking, taking drugs.

The movie is being talked about as a milestone. An article on CNN says, “‘In Between’ depicts alcohol consumption, drug taking, casual sex and homosexuality — topics Hamoud admits are seldom touched on in Arabic-language films.” The “split lives” of the protagonists, who have traditional Palestinian families but live away from them, “have rarely been depicted on screen,” a review in Variety says.

It’s true that Ms. Hamoud deftly portrays the world of modern, urban Palestinian women — the world to which she belongs — and explores how they are affected by constrictive, suffocating traditions. But she is far from alone on that front. Unlike Hollywood, Arab cinema is flush with female directors making films that deal with feminist issues.

In terms of contemporary Arab films, “In Between” is heavily reminiscent of “Caramel” (2007). Both films are about women from different social strata and religions: The female characters in “In Between” include a fierce criminal lawyer, a D.J. and a conservative university student; “Caramel” follows a group of women who work in or frequent a hair and waxing salon in Beirut. Both are about the restrictions the women are forced to abide by, and about love and vying for independence in a society in which marriage is regarded as the most desirable option for a woman. “Caramel” is directed by Nadine Labaki of Lebanon, who went on to make a second feature film in 2011, “Where Do We Go Now?,” a comedy about a mixed Christian-Muslim village where the women prevent the men from starting a religious war.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES

With rare Israel visit, Bahraini delegation seeks new dialogue for coexistence

6-1024x640In a strikingly rare instance of a visit to Israel by representatives from an Arab country without diplomatic relations, a delegation of religious figures from the Gulf kingdom of Bahrain traveled to the Jewish state last month “to send a message of peace” from King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.

“Our message is peaceful coexistence with no government involvement,” said Betsy Mathieson, president of the Bahrain-based nongovernmental organization “This is Bahrain,” who led the delegation.

In an exclusive Times of Israel Persian edition interview with members of the delegation in Jerusalem, Mathieson said that her seven-year-old NGO “celebrates religious freedom and peaceful coexistence by sharing the centuries-old humble Bahraini way of life, where people of all faiths live together in the spirit of mutual respect and love.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE TIMES OF ISRAEL 

Muslims Join Christians in New Year Celebrations in Iran

Christians and Muslims get together in Christian New Year celebrations in Iran in a show of solidarity and rapport between followers of the two religions.

 iran

A ceremony marking the beginning of the New Christian year was held in Iran, bringing together a host of high-profile Muslim and Christian officials.

The ceremony was titled “The Manifestation of Friendship and Affinity between Muslims and Christians in Iran.”

Present at the event was Archbishop Sebouh Sarkissian, who said he was pleased to see such an event was being held.

“These days when New Year celebrations are being held, it is very important to remember all human beings,” he said, according to a Farsi report by the Honar Online news agency.

He then quoted verses from the holy Bible, which says humans are all brothers, sisters and friends.

“When you pray for me, or when I pray for you, in fact we are worshipping God,” he noted.

He then condemned policies adopted by US President Donald Trump, and said his unwise decisions have pushed the world toward crisis.

FULL ARTICLE FROM IFPNEWS

Muslims help with church’s homeless aid work so Christians can attend Christmas Eve service

ct-ctlh-ct-sta-muslims-help-christians-c-20171221When a group of Oak Lawn Christians mentioned they needed a hand, a group of Bridgeview Muslims offered theirs.

With Christmas Eve falling on a Sunday this year, Steve Hoerger, pastor of Salem United Church of Christ, had a dilemma.

Like several other area churches, Salem serves as a BEDS Plus overnight shelter, opening its doors one night a week to those in need. Every Sunday, Salem provides food and bedding to some 25-30 homeless women and children, Hoerger said.

But this Sunday also is the eve of a Christian holiday, among the biggest of the year. It is an evening on which Hoerger typically leads two Advent services.

Hoerger was explaining how “I didn’t know how we were going to be able to do both at the same time,” during a recent meeting of the Oak Lawn Clergy and Religious Workers Association, when a welcomed solution arose.

Karen Danielson, a member of the Bridgeview Mosque Foundation and a leader in interfaith collaboration, offered the services of Muslim volunteers.

“We said, ‘We’re there for you guys; the task is on us,'” Danielson said. “So on Christmas Eve we’ll provide meals for those coming into the church for homeless services, so the (church members) can be with their families and focus on their spiritual side.”

The Mosque volunteers will prepare and serve dinner that evening as well as bring supplies for breakfast and lunch on Christmas Day, Danielson said.

Hoerger said the homeless guests also will be welcome to attend service if they want, before partaking in the meal.

“The whole Christmas season is about light and I can’t think of a greater light than this kind of sharing across faith boundaries, especially in this time of darkness,” Hoerger said. “This is very much in keeping with the Advent, or Christmas, season.”

The takeaway message, Hoerger said, “is oneness and unity. We’re all one. That is the deepest place religion can go and, unfortunately, quite often it short circuits getting to that place. Too often religion becomes the barrier to that, when it really should be the facilitator.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE