For some time, I’ve envisioned our church as being well situated to be instrumental in projects and conversations that promote greater interfaith understanding. Perhaps we could even be the United Methodist “banner carrier” for this endeavor in the Tulsa area. I have been especially proud of some of our opportunities we’ve had this year on this front; from the New Life class seeking greater understanding of Islam, to our hosting a group of students for an interfaith tour. I believe in today’s political/cultural climate, such efforts are more valuable than ever, particularly with our interactions with our Muslim neighbors. At a local level, our state legislature seems to believe it is in their interest to become more educated about “Radical Islamic Terrorism” and has opened a forum for “education” under the leadership of a legislator who seems convinced groups like the Center for American Islamic Relations are terrorists. At a national level, there seem to be efforts underway in the new presidential administration to have some form of registration for “immigrants from areas where extremist groups are active.” This plan seems to be heavily focused on countries where Muslims are the majority. Are there going to be Irish, Spanish, French people in this registry? We have active extremist groups in this country–will this plan impact inter-state travel? Such a climate breeds contempt.
It is time we, as people of faith, not only show our hospitality to our neighbors who are devout practitioners of the second largest body of faith in the world, but also that there are better ways to “get to know them” than by relying on politicians to make our opinions for us. I have befriended a Muslim man named Mohammet Ali who works with the Dialogue Institute. He has sent me some ideas on how his organization, the Turkish Raindrop House and our church might plan some activities to foster actual, living relationships between people rather than news-fed characterization. (Right hand column.) Do any of these ideas look interesting to you? I plan to put together a small team of people from our church who might help implement some of these ideas in the new year. I believe God is calling us to utilize our talents and context wisely so that greater respect and hospitality might exist in a time when the “powers and principalities” seem to push fear and division.
Grace and Peace,
Possible Programs with Your Church
- Ladies Coffee Nights: Organized by Woman Association of Dialogue Institute. Monthly event when women from different traditions meet and learn from one another. Each program we would like to present on unique arts such as water marbling, henna tattoo, or introduction of local cuisine. We plan to invite a guest non-profit organization, as well. We have this event every other month and flexible to compare the schedules with your group. Simply let us know when it works for your “Women’s group”
- Cooking Classes: This event will also be special for ladies for now and if we see interest form men, we will include men! This event will be also every Saturday from 3 pm to 5 pm.
- Baklava Days: Friends from Dialogue Institute share Baklava with the community. So, we can come and share baklava with your members after Sunday service or during a special event you have. We can invite a few Turkish-American Muslim families and cherish the diversity
- Interfaith Academy: We usually have three speakers from diverse faith backgrounds and choose a mutually agreed topic that might be appealing to people. We can choose any topic: Essentials of faith, social justice, women leadership in peace building, caring about community, and many others.
- Interfaith Meetings at Homes: We can match 4-6 people from your community with a Turkish-American family and they can have informal gatherings in their homes over a cup of coffee and refreshments.
We will also have Turkish Language Classes, Book Club, Water Marbling classes in the near future.
Please let us know what kind of programs might be appealing to your congregation. Feel free to respond this e-mail and we can set up a meeting if you have more questions!