In Kalamazoo, Michigan:
Sunday, January 30, 2005 over 500 Muslims, Christians and Jews -- youth and elders, women and men -- packed the auditorium at Western Michigan University, with the intention of the diverse community organizers to begin citywide Sustained Dialogue in Kalamazoo in the weeks following the day's performance.
The tone was set by "The Children of Abraham Project," one of America's stunning theatrical presentations created and performed by Muslim, Jewish and Christian youth of Detroit, Michigan.
"This is a reality that says that we are one, that we are not separated by fear, that we can be deeply related and we can be drawn together by love," said Thomas Beech, president and CEO of the Fetzer Institute, which helped bring the performance to Kalamazoo.
Microphones were opened for spontaneous audience responses, in a spirit of goodwill and speaking from personal experience.
"It planted the seeds of peace," said Rabbi Stephen Forstein of the Temple B'nai Israel in Kalamazoo.
"So much love, so much caring," he said. "So much bringing together of adult resources to enable these young people to open up, to free up these young people to tell their stories first to one another and then to us."
A fellow panelist, a Palestinian with roots in the West Bank, said, "Until today I had never sat next to a rabbi. I have never shaken a rabbi's hand."
The two then leaned toward one another and they shook hands, as the audience clapped and cheered.
The day was the result of unprecedented, new cooperation between previously separated communities.
The audience included several dozen counselors from 12 North American camps that welcome Jewish and Palestinian youth -- Muslims, Christians and Jews -- to learn to relate in new ways. The teen and older leaders were in Kalamazoo for their first-even meeting, traveling from Ramallah, Jenin, Jerusalem, Nazareth, and the U.S. and Canada, described at:
"Children of Abraham Project stresses shared heritage among Jews, Christians, Muslims" was the banner in The Kalamazoo Gazette, where you can read the full article at:
In Kansas City, Kansas:
The same Sunday in Kansas City, KS, large numbers of the children of Abraham also wanted to come together.
The photo inscription with Monday's newspaper report read: "Rabbi Arthur Nemitoff (left) and Ahmed el-Sherif embraced Sunday at the Salaam Shalom Celebration, an interfaith dinner in Leawood for Christians, Muslims and Jews. About 500 people attended"
Published in the Kansas City (Kansas) Star -- Mon,
Jan. 31, 2005
Interfaith dinner shows a path to peace
By KARA COWIE The Kansas City Star
When Susan Bamford walked into Sunday night's Salaam Shalom Celebration in Leawood, she expected to receive a lesson in diversity. What she walked away with was far more powerful.
It dawned on me; we're all more alike than different, Bamford said.
Over heaping plates of hummus, a mix of Muslims, Jews and Christians discovered the same thing.
About 500 attended the first-time event that organizers called a gathering of peace-loving individuals who believe quite simply that the long-lasting road to peace is built by developing relationships and understanding between people of different cultures.
The sold-out celebration, led by Gayle Krigel ( GKrigel@kc.rr.com ), Mahnaz Shabbir ( Mahnaz@shabbiradvisors.com ) and Nick Awad ( Awad@earthlink.com ), was modeled after a hafla, or party, that takes place every year in Israel to blend different faiths while breaking bread. Individuals, not organizations, planned the event. They hope to hold many more.
The name comes from the word peace in Arabic, Salaam, and Hebrew, Shalom. Organizers chose those words to show this is a celebration of peace not speeches, politics or fund raising, said Eric Morgenstern.
U.S. Rep. Dennis Moore of Kansas said the celebration gives him hope for the future.
If we can focus on the fact we're all human beings and we're all in it together, we can do it better, Moore said. Let's all remember, let there be peace on earth and let it start with us.
Ken Sonnenschein ( KSonshine@earthlink.net ), a Jew from Overland Park, also has high hopes for peace.
You make incredible changes in bringing people together, he said. From a small spark you can produce a large flame. This is the flame that leads to freedom.
Mohammad Hussain, a Muslim from Overland Park, agreed.
It's a great gathering, he said. I think we need more of these to make a difference in the world.
To reach Kara Cowie, call (816) 234-7737 or e-mail KCowie@kcstar.com .