Dr. Daniel Buttry
In many ways, doing Interfaith work at first is much like dating. We tread carefully around each other, afraid that we might say something wrong, or that what is precious to us won’t be valued. We dream of good, mutually-affirming and respectful relationships, but what we often end up with is shallow and sometimes wimpy feel-good religious mush.
But in our nearly 20 years of work since the crushing terror attacks of September 11, 2001, IFLC with many local interfaith organizations has moved the concept of interfaith work way past the dating phase and has moved into deeper relationships with other faiths. Relationships that can both take on the long-term commitments of building better communities, but also relationships that will be strong enough to stand up to the purveyors of fear, hatred and violence.
Because we have taken the time to go beyond the superficiality of first dates through forging deep relationships, we know who to turn to in times of crisis.
For example, when radical Christian Terry Jones threatened to demonstrate with White Supremacists and burn a Koran in front of the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn in June of 2014, IFLC countered this act of hatred and 1,000 clergy and lay leaders from across all faiths gathered on the steps of the ICA as a show of support.
When in October of 2018 supremacists carried out the largest slaughter of Jews in US history at the Pittsburgh Tree of Life Synagogue, and then when in 2019 a terrorist committed a senseless murder of Muslims praying in a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, IFLC again led the way to bring our neighbors together to mourn and cope with our grief.
But we need not have a crisis to come together. For adults, IFLC will continue to offer educational programs such as “Exploring Religious Landscapes” and “Ask a..” These have proven to be meaningful, personable and informal dialogues about religion, though now we are working to bring them to you in a virtual way.
Through technology and the ingenuity of our board, staff and area educators, Religious Diversity Journeys, our experiential world religions program for 7th graders, will go on virtually for hundreds of local schoolchildren. RDJ for nearly 13 years has brought children of different faiths together to celebrate our religious differences. RDJ answers the question of will our religious differences tear each other apart or give us a richness in building a better community?
RDJ is our cornerstone program. It has impacted students, families, educators and school administrators could not have happened without the generosity of our donors.
There’s so much more to do. In a time where our country is facing multiple pandemics from Cornoavirus, racism and religious bigotry, this is the time for more interfaith dialogue rather than less and for a time to go beyond dialogue. IFLC since the pandemic has continued to provide educational and social resources where people can find help and ease feelings of isolation. We have responded to this summer’s scourge of hatred towards our black neighbors and have provided information for congregations grappling with the question of how to open their buildings safely so congregants can worship together again in the near future.
IFLC is ever thankful to our supporters. Without you, such past programming, and the friendships that result, would not be possible. With continued support, IFLC will continue to meet the challenge of building the beloved community. It starts this fall with the launch of our new Faith and Works podcast, a new, video-enhanced lecture series that delves into how faith shapes artistic expression, and continued growth of RDJ.
We seek to continue and expand these programs through support from people like you. Please consider a donation through www.detroitinterfaithcouncil.com , or by clicking on the Donate button below.