Interfaith dialogues look for strangers

Posted Online: Oct. 04, 2013, 3:20 am
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By Leon Lagerstam,
ROCK ISLAND -- Jewish, Christian and Muslim women participating in an annual interfaith dialogue hope to turn strangers into good friends.

"We want people to feel comfortable to sit with a Muslim woman who may be dressed differently than they are, or beside a Jewish woman who might look the same but go to a synagogue instead of to a Christian church," Sister Catherine Cleary said. "We go to the same parks, hospitals or medical clinics, schools and other community spots, and all three of our faiths are under the tent of Abraham."

The eighth annual Jewish-Christian-Muslim Women's dialogue that opened Monday, Sept. 30, will continue at 7 p.m., Monday at the Tri-City Jewish Center, 2715 30th St., when participants will discuss community diversity and poverty issues, Sister Cleary said.

For more information, call Sister Cleary at 309-283-2118.

The theme of the two-part program is "Who is the Stranger."

That's a perfect choice, because it fits into the ongoing immigration-reform issue and matches what Pope Francis has been saying about the importance of outreach, Sister Cleary said.

"The Quad-Cities has drawn multiple people from other countries, and sometimes we feel we forget about them, and they feel like they are a stranger among us," she said. "And the Pope has made such an outreach to the Muslims to spread the word of love and mercy, and has challenged us to find new roads to step outside our typical journey and reach out to others, even to those who live out on the borders."

It hearkens back to the 13th Century Pope Francis, Sister Cleary said. It was a time when the Pope decided to stop the crusades and traveled to Egypt to meet with the Sultan. After the meeting, the Pope announced that Christian and Muslim brothers no longer would participate in arguments and disputes, and Christian soldiers should begin a practice of ringing a bell and kneeling to pray, as their Muslim counterparts regularly did.

The older Pope Francis called for the church to be "a home for all, not a chapel for select people," Sister Cleary said. The new Pope Francis is calling for much of the same.

"The Quad-Cities interfaith women's dialogues provide a wonderful opportunity for people of all faiths to discuss topics of interest," Muslim community representative Dr. Lisa Killinger said. "What's unique is that it brings not only Christians and Jews together, but adds Muslims to the fold. When we have these discussions, we truly find more that unites us than divides us, and that's a powerful thing."

Attendance has climbed from about 40 women at the first dialogue eight years ago to about 100, Sister Cleary said. Meetings have alternated between the Jewish Center, St Mary's Monastery in Rock Island and the Moline mosque, she said.

"Practically speaking, these dialogues raise everyone's consciences to faith traditions and alerts people to the number of strangers we have among us to see what our group of churches can do to help them."

Sister Cleary compared it to what's said in Matthew 25:35, when Jesus said "I was a stranger, and you took me in;" and reminded followers that "whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."


Local events heading

  Today is Wednesday, April 23, the 113th day of 2014. There are 252 days left in the year.

1864 — 150 years ago: Some persons are negotiating for 80 feet of ground on Illinois Street with a view of erecting four stores thereon. It would serve a better purpose if the money was invested in neat tenement houses.
1889 — 125 years ago: The Central station, car house and stables of the Moline-Rock Island Horse Railway line of the Holmes syndicate, together with 15 cars and 42 head of horses, were destroyed by fire. The loss was at $15,000.
1914 — 100 years ago: Vera Cruz, Mexico, after a day and night of resistance to American forces, gradually ceased opposition. The American forces took complete control of the city.
1939 — 75 years ago: Dr. R. Bruce Collins was reelected for a second term as president of the Lower Rock Island County Tuberculosis Association.
1964 — 50 years ago: Work is scheduled to begin this summer on construction of a new men's residence complex and an addition to the dining facilities at Westerlin Hall at Augustana College.
1989 — 25 years ago: Special Olympics competitors were triple winners at Rock Island High School Saturday. The participants vanquished the rain that fell during the competition, and some won their events; but most important, they triumphed over their own disabilities.

(More History)