Sam slowly started putting on traditional Arab clothing over his suit and tie as he gave his presentation. At the end of the presentation there stood the same man but he looked very different. Many people seemed surprised at how they judged and perceived someone based on how they were dressed.
On September 12, 2015 Trinity Memorial Church in Warren PA hosted the latest Children of Abraham event. There were approximately 35 to 40 people in attendance. The concept behind The Children of Abraham Project is that it is not a one time only event. Daily we are inundated with stereotypical images that can skew our perception of our fellow human beings. One event can not counter the influences of mass media and social media. The event that was held at Trinity Memorial was an introductory event designed for people that may not be familiar with the concept of interfaith dialogue. As an interfaith encounter The Children of Abraham is intended to give people the opportunity to interact with someone who may hold a different theological, philosophical, or spiritual point of view of our common human experience. It is about building relationships, and seeing the world through another person’s perspective. An interfaith encounter is not about debating or arguing about who is “in” or who is “out.” It is not about determining if one faith is “enlightened” or if another is “backward.” It is about sharing the common love that exists in all of our hearts; a love that binds all of humanity together; a love that makes us one family.
This event was also intended to give people a brief overview of the history of Judaism and Islam. Deacon Timothy Dyer gave history of how Judaism, Islam and Christianity are historically related. He also spoke about how the concept of The Children of Abraham Project came into being. He described how it is linked to the vows taken in the Episcopal Baptismal Covenant. For him, the two questions that directly pertain to interfaith relationships are “Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?” and “Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?” Prayer and discernment of these two questions led to developing The Children of Abraham Project.
Harvey Stone (a practicing Jew and business owner from Warren PA) spoke of the Jewish experiences throughout history. Harvey gave a brief over view of the history of Jews from ancient biblical time to modern Judaism. Obviously this is a huge time period to cover and only a snapshot of this history was given. We hope to be able to delve into this deeper at later events. Many of those in attendance seemed surprised to learn at how recent and wide spread the persecution of Jews has been. Even more surprising was the history of anti-Semitic beliefs that were supported in America. Harvey also spoke of the contributions that Jewish people have made to the world in arts and sciences.
Sam Qadri (a high school teacher and adjunct professor at the Jamestown Business College and the Public Relations Director at the Jamestown Islamic Society ) is the one who put traditional Arab clothing over his suit while he spoke of the Muslim perspective. Sam gave a brief history of Islam. He also spoke about similar stories that are shared by the three Abrahamic religions, and some of the differences. His outfit change helped us understand how we can error in our judgments when they are based on perception.
As The Children of Abraham we come from different backgrounds and traditions. We do not speak the same language of worship, yet we share a common religious ancestry. We follow different teachings, which are made known to us by sacred scriptures. Yet we come together. We honor and celebrate our diversity but more importantly our similarities. If civilization or humanity is to survive, then we must work together to heal our communities. Peace is possible, but it must be pursued with education, understanding, and a loving heart. We come together not to proselytize or convert anyone. We are here to listen, to learn, to understand, and to hopefully counteract the bigotry, hatred, and stereotypical images that inundate our society. Our hope is to bring change and reconciliation to the world – one mind, one heart at a time because we are one human family.
The event lasted for two and a half hours. A brief question and answer period was offered at the end of the presentations. The feedback from those that attended was very positive. We anticipate holding more events on varying topics. The Children of Abraham Project has been in existence for 3 years and is an evolving program. Recommendations of topics for events are always welcome. The gentlemen that are involved are interested in spreading the message of love and peace and are willing to travel to any location within the diocese. If you wish to host an event, please contact Deacon Tim Dyer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Deacon Timothy Dyer, Trinity Memorial Church, Warren, PA and St. Francis, Youngsville, PA