Duluth News Tribune
Monday, September 20, 2004 -- Duluth, Minnesota

Play's powerful lesson is peace
CHILDREN OF ABRAHAM: Teens from Detroit use shared history from
the Bible and Quran to teach reconciliation between different religions.

By John Myers
News Tribune Staff Writer

      The story of Abraham's estranged sons Isaac and Ishmael are told in both the Bible and Quran, although the details are a little different.
      It's those details that have driven apart the Muslim and Jewish faiths over the centuries. Isaac went on to be a patriarch of Judaism, and is thus part of Christianity as well. Ishmael's eventual descendants included Mohammed and the birth of the Islam.
      But instead of focusing on that split, why not focus on the shared history? Why not focus on Abraham being part of both faiths?
      That's the message behind "The Children of Abraham Project" that came to St. Scholastica's Mitchell Auditorium Sunday afternoon. Participating in a weekend retreat, a play and discussion, Christians, Jews and Muslims came together to focus on common ground, respect and peace.
      The focal point was an hourlong production by eight Detroit-area teenagers -- a mix of Muslims, Jews and Christians -- that combined drama, biblical history lessons, song and reflections on personal experiences. The production first highlighted the strife and differences between the faiths and then worked to underscore the similarities and the possibilities of peace.
      While those differences may seem almost impossible to bridge -- because of each faith's firm belief that its teachings follow the truth -- cast members repeatedly came back to a single question: Can there be more than one truth?
      While never fully answered, the question looms large in trying to bridge differences that continue to lead to endless terrorism, bloodshed, war and strife -- all in the name of religion.
      "We are proof peace is possible," said cast member Araz Hashemi, a Muslim.
      "We are all children of Abraham. And we want peace," said cast member H. Adam Harris, a Christian.
      Serah Iheasirim, a UMD student who attended the production, was moved to be part of the public discussion afterward.
      "I was really, really moved," she said. "It's really wonderful. It's given me a new perspective on things."
      Others commented that it may take teenagers, like the cast of the production, and a new generation to break apart prejudice and hate that has built up for centuries.
      "These teenagers have done a wonderful job of opening our eyes," said Duluthian Arshia Khan.
      The powerful production premiered in Detroit in March. Sunday's show was the first outside Michigan. But organizers said Sunday that they hope to bring the production soon to the Vatican and to Jerusalem.
      "We expect to take it all around the country, all around the world," said Jack Sperling, director of the production. "We want it to not only be a play but part of a youth peace movement."
      About 300 people attended Sunday's event.
      "The Children of Abraham Project" is the brainchild of two Detroit friends, peace activist Brenda Rosenberg and Imam Abdullah El Amin, executive director of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan. Detroit is home to large Muslim and Jewish communities and, like Duluth, home of interfaith efforts to heal divisions heightened by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
      "This is what happens when a Jewish woman and a Muslim man have lunch," Rosenberg joked with the audience after the play.
      The production was brought to Duluth by the Arrowhead Interfaith Council. Council leaders plan to hold a follow-up meeting on "The Children of Abraham Project" on Nov. 30. For more information go to www.arrowheadinterfaith.org.

JOHN MYERS covers the environment, natural resources and general news. He can be reached at (218) 723-5344 or at JMyers@duluthnews.com.

See photos of "The Children of Abraham Project" performance, and of the separate, preceding First Midwest Jewish-Palestinian Dialogue Weekend in Duluth, linked at:

"The Children of Abraham Project" is on the Web at http://thechildrenofabrahamproject.org/ .

Jewish-Palestinian Living Room Dialogue Group
1448 Cedarwood Drive, San Mateo, CA 94403
Voice: (650) 574-8303 Fax:(650) 573-1217
Web: http://traubman.igc.org

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