In order for us to connect with each other in a meaningful way, we need to understand each other. Creating that understanding and facilitating those connections is a key part of the IFLC agenda. As we head into the 2015/2016 school year, we have increased participation in our Religious Diversity Journeys program to three cohorts, 450 students from 16 districts in Wayne and Oakland Counties, visiting 15 Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Hindu and Sikh houses of worship. We’re headed into our second year of Face to Faith for teens. We are expanding our religious literacy programs for adults. And we are providing grants to other faith and interfaith organizations for religious literacy programs.
In all of our educational, communal and professional arenas, we are working to create a deeper sensitivity to the many ways in which adherents to different faiths eat, dress, worship, and approach the most meaningful moments of our life cycles.
Religious Diversity Journeys for seventh graders is one of the most impactful religious literacy programs in the metro Detroit area. Each year, an increasing number of students, teachers and parents tour houses of worship, learn about different traditions from faith and lay leaders, share a meal, and work side by side on a service project. We are currently developing a new RDJ workbook, designed to provide information on the history, holidays, theology, rituals, demographics, terminology and life cycles of the five faiths explored by program participants.
And we are working on creating a similar program to take adults into the area’s spiritual homes to get a feel for how our neighbors connect with God in their diverse and fascinating traditions.
Last year, we sponsored a series of panels on life cycle events. This year our panels will focus on other aspects and expressions of faith, starting with a panel on headwear. Turbans, hijab, yarmulkes, headwear is one of the most visible ways in which we express our faith identity, and possibly one of the most frequently misunderstood. The panel will take place Sunday, October 18 from 330-6pm at St. John’s Episcopal Church.
In our most vulnerable moments, in illness and as we approach death, it is of great comfort to be understood and accommodated within the context of a one size fits all health system. We are pleased to continue a partnership with the Henry Ford Health system to educate health care providers about the diverse needs of different faith community members at these crucial moments. And we are partnering with several other hospitals in the formation of our new Healthcare committee.
One of the greatest opportunities for expanding religious literacy is within our faith communities, and we are working with faith leaders to expand their understanding with their fellow clergy of other faiths, and help them to build understanding within their congregations and communities.
Our workplaces are homes away from home for many of us, the places we spend so much of our time. And because they are places where members of so many different faiths interact each day, they create a unique challenge and a unique opportunity to open the gates of understanding. Many businesses have realized the potential for greater understanding to lead to greater and more satisfying productivity. Diversity task forces and committees are becoming more and more common, and we are committed to work with our community’s business leaders to make the most of these efforts.
We invite you to join us. Come to a program. Suggest an opportunity. Volunteer to help. Contribute to support our efforts. Join us at our annual dinner to honor the people who do so much great work in our community. Ask questions, read, share information. Every mind opened is a step taken toward peace. We look forward to seeing you on this year’s journey toward increased religious literacy.
Join the IFLC volunteer committee – email Meredith Skowronski at email@example.com