Posted Online: Oct. 04, 2013, 3:20 am

Interfaith dialogues look for strangers

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By Leon Lagerstam,

Photo: Submitted
Rabbi Tamar Grimm, left, gives a tour of the Tri-City Jewish Center's sanctuary during a women's interfaith dialogue presentation on Monday, Sept. 30. A second part of the annual event will be held at 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 7, at the center, 2715 30th St., Rock Island.
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."