Children of Abraham: fighting prejudice – (featuring Deacon Tim Dyer)

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Reposted from the Times Observer, Warren Pa

September 8, 2015
By DIANA PADDOCK (dpaddock@timesobserver.com)
Not all Muslims are AK47-toting maniacs who want to kill everyone.

Deacon Tim Dyer will continue his efforts to fight these types of stereotypes and “strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being” – part of the Episcopal Baptismal Covenant – as he moves humanity forward in his personal life and in his work to become an Episcopalian priest.

His “Children of Abraham” Project – sharing and educating the public about similarities between Muslim, Jewish and Christian faiths – began in the summer of 2011 when Dyer was studying the Baptismal Covenant.

“While each question struck a cord with me, there were two that particularly stood out,” Dyer explained:

Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?

Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?

“I wondered if I was living into the vows as well as I could be,” Dyer shared. “When I considered the second question I had to ask myself; how was I striving for justice and peace among all people and how was I respecting the dignity of every human being? What was I doing? If I was silent when others were being tried in society’s judgmental court, was that fulfilling my vow? Did my silence make me as guilty as the accusers who were passing judgment?”

To counter those judgments, which are sometimes based on appearance, Dyer said, he invited Sam Qadri, a community outreach and public relations officer for the Jamestown Islamic Society, to speak at one of the first Children of Abraham programs.

Qadri began his talk dressed in traditional American clothing, and slowly, as he spoke, switched, piece by piece, into Arab garb.

It was eye-opening, Dyer said, to feel the difference in judgment when Qadri was dressed in American garb versus Arab garb.

The response was excellent, Dyer said.

It’s not only appearance that spurs unfair judgment.

“I couldn’t help but notice that the news reports were full of stories about the villainous Muslims,” Dyer said “The portrait that was painted was that Muslims were all AK47 toting maniacs who wanted to kill everyone. I also saw news reports about Israel and Palestine and the warring factions there. The constant stream of these stories was shaping the opinions of the people who viewed them.”

“It seemed that it was the most violent and radical people who were putting a face to these cultures and religions,” Dyer explained. “Just because someone puts on the mask of a religion doesn’t mean they are an actual representation of that religion. There are many people who call themselves Christians that I would not want representing me and my beliefs. I couldn’t believe that these violent portrayals were actual representations of the common person.”

“It was the common, everyday person who was being tried in the courts of society for the actions of a minority of people who were claiming their faith,” Dyer continued. “No one was giving these people a voice.”

Equally upsetting were the reports of hate crimes, discrimination and stereotyping committed against Jews and Muslims, Dyer explained.

That’s when The Children of Abraham Project was developed.

Dyer, who is the Clergy Associate for Pastoral Ministries at Trinity Memorial Episcopal Church in Warren and St. Francis of Assisi Episcopal Church in Youngsville, said this initiative is “designed to bring Judaism, Islam and Christianity together in open and honest dialogue, to discuss their differences and celebrate their similarities. It is our hope that in offering this event to our community we may bring change and reconciliation to the world – one mind, one heart at a time. Racism, prejudice, and violence are all to common in our society. Finding love and peace within our communities cannot be successful without each of working together to counteract hatred, injustice and the stereotypical images that permeate our society.”

This fifth event of the Children of Abraham Project, the first to be hosted by Trinity, will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 12, at 444 Pennsylvania Ave. It will feature Harvey Stone of Warren, who will speak on Judaism. There is no cost to attend. There will be a question and answer session, so participants are urged bring any and all questions they may have to help “educate and combat prejudices,” Dyer said. “One of the best ways to combat prejudices is to be able to answer the difficult questions people have, or offer correct information to those who may be misinformed.”

“If the basic essence of God is love, and Jesus loved the most reviled people of his time, it would seem then God wants us to love all people regardless of how we humans segregate ourselves,” Dyer concluded. “I feel that when I look into the eyes of a stranger and see there the same love that is in my heart, then I am looking into the eyes of a brother or sister. It is in serving that love, that I serve Christ; regardless of ethnicity or religious beliefs.”

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