Shalom, Salam, Peace.

This article appeared in the Corry Journal on 3.28.16 and is written by Jordan M. Schrecengost.

The message of peace is universal.

That’s one of the topics that will be discussed at an upcoming interfaith initiative held in Corry by a local deacon.

16969_100564616643449_761487_n“I think the message of love and peace is important, especially when the rhetoric of hate and fear echo so loudly in our world today,” said Deacon Timothy Dyer, who is a clergy associate for pastoral ministries at Trinity Memorial Episcopal Church in Warren and St. Francis of Assisi Episcopal Church in Youngsville.

Dyer is the founder of an interfaith initiative known as “The Children of Abraham Project,” which will be making its debut in the city of Corry this weekend.

The Children of Abraham Project will be holding its sixth event since the project’s inception in 2012. The event will be held at the Emmanuel Episcopal Church, 327 N. Center St., Corry, on April 2 from 1 to 4 p.m. 

There is no cost to attend the event.

“This interfaith initiative is designed to bring Judaism, Islam and Christianity together in open and honest dialogue to discuss their differences, and celebrate their similarities,” Dyer said. “It is our hope that in offering this event to our community that we may bring change and reconciliation to the world — one mind, one heart at a time because we are one human family.”

After the first few events, The Children of Abraham Project began to gain a reputation with the Episcopal Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania, Dyer said. That led to members of the Emmanuel church approaching Dyer to ask if he could bring the program to Corry. Dyer hoped to hold an event in Corry sooner, but is excited it’s finally happening.

“I wasn’t able to bring the program there as soon as I would have liked, but I am so happy that we were finally able to make the necessary arrangements,” he said. “I honestly believe that we need to hear the message of love and peace over the rhetoric of fear and hate.”

Dyer, who is the event’s Christian representative, will be one of three speakers at the event in Corry. He will be joined by fellow speakers Sam Qadri and Harvey Stone, who will speak on behalf of the religions of Islam and Judaism, respectively.

Qadri is the public relations director at the Jamestown Islamic Society. He’s also a teacher at Jamestown High School and an adjunct professor at the Jamestown Business College. Dyer said Stone is a business owner in Warren and has shared his faith and traditions with many people in Warren area over the years.

The goal of the event is not to convert anyone, Dyer added.

“We come together not to proselytize or convert anyone,” he said. “We come together to listen, to learn, to understand and to hopefully counteract the bigotry, hatred and stereotypical images that inundate our society.”

The Children of Abraham event will begin with an English prayer by Dyer, an Arabic prayer by Qadri and a Hebrew prayer by Stone.

“I will also give a brief history of Abraham, Sarah and Hagar, and demonstrate how all three religions share a common ancestor,” Dyer said. “I will then speak to what the purpose of interfaith dialogue is about and what we hope to achieve — understanding, peace and compassion for our fellow human beings. I will finally show how the golden rule of loving your neighbor is prevalent in all three religions.”

Stone will give a history of the Jewish people’s experiences throughout history and how they have contributed to the advancement of the world. Qadri will speak about the history of Islam to generate a basic understanding of its tenets and beliefs, and will highlight what it shares in common with Judaism and Christianity. He will also share stories of discrimination that he has witnessed and speak to the relevance of people’s perceptions.

The Children of Abraham event will conclude with a question and answer segment with all three speakers.

“No question will be out of bounds; any and all questions are welcomed,” Dyer said. “I will admit that many of the questions are directed at Sam because many of their concerns are around understanding Islam.”

Qadri said they’re there to answer the hard questions, though.

“Racism, prejudice and violence are all-too-common in our society,” Dyer said. “Finding love and peace within our communities cannot be successful without each of us working together to counteract hatred, injustice and the stereotypical images that permeate our society.”

The interfaith initiative was developed in the summer of 2011 after Dyer studied the Episcopal Baptismal Covenant.

“While each question struck a chord within me, there were two that particularly stood out,” he said. “Those questions were: 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?”

The first Children of Abraham event was held one year later at St. Francis in Youngsville.

“Our first event was very similar to the event we will have in Corry,” Dyer said. “I explained how The Children of Abraham Project came to be and was inspired by my need to answer questions in the Episcopal Baptismal Covenant.”

Dyer said he chose the name because Judaism, Islam and Christianity all trace their history back to Abraham.

“We are considered the three Abrahamic faiths; thus we are children of Abraham,” he said. “From Abraham came Isaac, from whom the Hebrew line and eventually Christianity came, and Ishmael, from whom Islam traces its history.”

Dyer also explained that the word “project” is in the Children of Abraham name because it’s a continuous effort to eradicate the stereotypes and stigmas surrounding different religions of the world.

“It is a project because this is an educational initiative that should not end; it’s a continual effort,” Dyer said. “It’s a collaboration that brings the three major religions of the world together for a common goal: Peace, understanding and love.”

Successful ‘Children of Abraham’ Event Teaches Peace and Interfaith Dialogue

man-851891_1280Sam 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 therevtddyer@gmail.com.

Deacon Timothy Dyer, Trinity Memorial Church, Warren, PA and St. Francis, Youngsville, PA

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