Is This Happening in Your Local Community?

At four o’clock this afternoon I joined about ninety people at the Islamic Society of San Francisco to hear comments from three local representatives of the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim faiths who briefly outlined their respective outlooks on the common roots of the three mono-theistic religions in the legacy of Abraham. The formal remarks were followed by a question and answer session and an informal dinner.

What struck me about this event, which is the first that I’ve attended in my own community, was that the topic of Abraham brought these diverse people together and established common ground for a meeting, but nobody was really there to hear about Abraham. Everybody was at the Islamic Society to show that we all care about getting along, whether we are Jews, Christians, or Muslim.

Women made up about one third of the total group. I estimate that about 40% of the total assembly were Muslim, with the balance evenly divided between Christians and Jews. The age spread ranged from about 35 to 80, except for one young Muslim boy of about 10 who was probably there accompanying his parents.

Everyone received handouts highlighting some aspect of the biblical history of Abraham that would be congenial to all present, and the prepared remarks set the stage for the informal conversation that would follow.

To me, it is this type of grassroots participation by local people of widely varying ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds that sends a real message to extremists. People are divided when they don’t interact and when they have no basis for communication.

The real importance of the meeting at the San Francisco Islamic Society today is not what was said about Abraham in the Quran or by Saul of Tarsus or in the Torah. What matters is that close to 100 people of different faiths took time out of their Sunday afternoon to reach out and shake hands, maybe for the first time, with people whom they might otherwise never meet.

Is this happening in your community? If it is, please consider changing your routine one Sunday and meet someone really “new”. If it isn’t, maybe you should help to make it happen. You never know what good could come if it.

Organizations Sponsoring the Event:

American Jewish Committee, Archdiocese of San Francisco, Bay Area Cultural Connections, Graduate Theological Union, Interfaith Center at the Presidio, Islamic Society of San Francisco, Jewish Community Relations Council, Northern California Interreligious conference, San Francisco Interfaith Council, United Muslims of America, and the United Religions Initiative

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