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REPORT: Launch of Yuba-Sutter Friends of IEA in California

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  • Yehuda Stolov
    Dear friends, I am very happy to share with you the report from the public launch of another Friends of IEA group. I hope very much that many groups will
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 4, 2003
      Dear friends,

      I am very happy to share with you the report from the public launch of
      another Friends of IEA group. I hope very much that many groups will
      follow and become active partners with our work to build human peace
      through interfaith dialogue, both through supporting our work in the Holy
      Land and through maintaining parallel dialogue in their own places.
      The report was written by Prof. Robert Wachman of Congregation Beth
      Shalom, who together with Rev. Bob Cordier of First Presbyterian Church
      and Victor Krambo of the Islamic Center of Yuba City organized the event
      and are running the group (that had already a second event on June 28th,
      an event that will be reported separately).
      The event was covered by the local newspapaer and it's story is copied
      after Robert's report.

      Best wishes,



      Report on First Abrahamic Interfaith Dialogue Program:
      May 8, 2003, Marysville, California

      On May 8, 2003, over 60 people met at the First Presbyterian
      Church in Marysville, California, for the First Yuba-Sutter Abrahamic
      Interfaith Dialogue Program. (Yuba and Sutter are the names of the two
      adjoining counties in this area.) This gathering was inspired by and
      modeled on the work of Yehuda Stolov and the Interfaith Encounter
      Association of Jerusalem. Following Mr. Stolov's presentation at Yuba
      College in Marysville in November 2002, Robert Wachman, Board Member of
      the Jewish Congregation Beth Shalom; Victor Krambo, Board Member of the
      Islamic Center of Yuba City; and Rev. Bob Cordier, Pastor of First
      Presbyterian Church in Marysville, began planning this gathering, the
      first of an ongoing series of dialogue programs aimed at increasing
      understanding and respect among and toward people of the three Abrahamic
      faith traditions: Jews, Christians, and Muslims. During our planning, we
      received guidance from Mr. Stolov via e-mail, and he returned to our area
      to serve as our keynote speaker and oversee the event.

      Pastor Bob, as he is affectionately known, began the program by
      welcoming all participants, introducing the other planners, explaining the
      overall purpose, and introducing the concept of Respectful Presence to
      facilitate participants' positive experience.

      From our program:
      "The practice of respectful presence can enable people to have fruitful
      experiences of interfaith dialogue. Respectful presence with people of
      other faiths can lead each of us into a fuller understanding and
      experience of our own faith. In a pluralistic society, opportunities for
      interaction with persons of other faith traditions are increasingly
      common. In such a setting, an attitude of respectful presence offers us a
      way to participate, expressing respect for persons from other faiths while
      maintaining loyalty to our own.

      "We should not compromise our faith in order to achieve an
      artificial agreement with persons of other faiths. Rather, expressing our
      own faith with integrity, while maintaining respect for the faith of
      others, is a necessary condition of genuine interreligious dialogue.
      "Respectful presence implies a mutual agreement not to exploit
      occasions of interfaith dialogue as opportunities for conversion.
      "Persons of different faith traditions call God by different
      names, follow different patterns for the worship of God, and pray to God
      in distinct ways. Even among the monotheistic traditions of Judaism,
      Christianity, and Islam, different ways of prayer to the one God require
      acknowledgment, understanding, and mutual sensitivity."

      Next, each of the principal planners-Robert, Pastor Bob, and Victor-quoted
      from scripture and gave a personal interpretation of his faith's teachings
      and attitude toward people of other faiths.

      Following these remarks, Mr. Stolov shared his conviction that
      interpersonal communication about beliefs and experience has a much better
      chance of building true and lasting harmony and peace among people of
      different backgrounds and traditions than does political discussion. He
      described the programs of the Interfaith Encounter Association in Israel
      and related a story illustrating the kind of deeper interfaith and
      intercultural understanding which can result from such experience. (More
      of his remarks can be found in the news article below.)

      After Yehuda's presentation, our seven facilitators were
      introduced and positioned themselves each at a different round table in
      the church's large social hall. Participants were asked to distribute
      themselves as evenly as possible among the tables, such that there was at
      least one follower of each of the three faith traditions at each table.
      Facilitators began group discussions by reviewing and discussing the
      Ground Rules:

      1) Participants are encouraged to speak from their personal point of view
      and not be anxious whether what they say is correct according to official
      teachings. 2) Participants should be open and sincere about expressing
      their beliefs while being careful not to offend others in how they express
      their beliefs. 3) Participants are encouraged to share their views as
      well as to listen respectfully while another is speaking. 4) Discussing
      religious and cultural perspectives is appropriate. 5) Discussing
      political perspectives is inappropriate.

      Participants were then invited to share: 1) their own "faith journeys," 2)
      their feelings about increasing their understanding of other faiths, and
      3) their thoughts on the importance of interfaith understanding in our
      increasingly polarized world."

      Evaluation forms were distributed about 10 minutes before the conclusion
      of the 55-minute discussion time, and participants were asked to fill them
      in and give them to the facilitators before partaking in the delicious
      refreshments provided. During the socializing that followed, participants
      engaged in animated conversation, exchanged phone numbers and talked about
      how happy they were to have the opportunity to meet and understand one
      another better.

      Analysis of the evaluation forms indicated that the vast majority of
      participants had extremely positive feelings about this event, wanted to
      participate in more, and wanted more time for discussion in future

      Two weeks later, principal organizers began planning a follow-up event, to
      be held June 28, 2003.

      Report submitted by Robert Wachman

      * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

      You can see the article at:

      Here's the text:

      Friday, May 9, 2003

      Faiths seek common ground
      Christians, Jews, Muslims gather in Marysville

      Harold Kruger

      Sixty people of three religions gathered Thursday night [May 8, 2003] in a
      Marysville church to "rub elbows with folks of other faith traditions,"
      according to the Rev. Bob Cordier.

      An Israeli, Yehuda Stolov, was there to help their appreciate their
      different beliefs.

      Stolov, a physicist, runs the Interfaith Encounter Association in
      Jerusalem, where different faiths share the Holy Land.

      "In Israel, the political dialogue is extremely superficial and extremely
      divisive," he said. "There's not much room for real dialogue. On the other
      hand, the religious discussion is much deeper."

      According to Stolov, "When people have political negotiations or talks,
      the goal is to find agreement.
      Agreement is on a piece of paper that everyone signs.
      The religious model allows people to find harmonious coexistence, even if
      they completely disagree with each other."

      The association is "dedicated to promoting co-existence in the Middle East
      through cross-cultural study and inter-religious dialogue," according to
      its Web site. "We believe that, rather than being the cause of the
      problem, religion can and should be a source of solution for the conflicts
      that exist in the region and beyond.

      "We do not believe in the blending of all traditions into one
      undifferentiated group, but in providing a table where all can come and
      sit in safety and ease, while being fully who they are in their respective

      Stolov brought that philosophy to Marysville for what was billed as the
      First Abrahamic Interfaith Dialogue Program, co-sponsored by Cordier's
      First Presbyterian Church, Congregation Beth Shalom and the Islamic Center
      of Yuba City.

      Cordier said the program was to allow Jews, Christians and Muslims "to
      have a time together to begin a process of mutual admiration and respect."

      The attendees broke into small groups for discussions.

      Robert Wachman of the Jewish temple acknowledged that Sept. 11, 2001,
      caused some "ill feelings" in the community.

      "We probably do have some enemies," he said, "but it doesn't mean someone
      who belongs to a particular faith."

      Cordier acknowledged, "By and large, in our community, as in most
      communities, Christians are the majority. To that extent, it probably
      is more important that we as Christians take the opportunity, take the
      initiative to respect folks who are different from us. That's not just a
      Christian thing to do."

      The Islamic Center's Victor Krambo said his religion "is important to me
      and defines my life."

      Krambo was born a Christian and converted 25 years ago, he said.

      The Interfaith Encounter Association
      P.O.Box 3814, Jerusalem 91037, Israel
      Phone: +972-2-6510520
      Fax: +972-2-6510557
      Website: www.interfaith-encounter.org

      Sheikh Muhammad Kiwan, Chair
      Sr. Karmela Farrugia, Vice-chair
      Mr. Shlomo Alon, Vice-chair
      Rabbi Dov Maimon
      Fr. Dr. George Khoury
      Ms. Ibtisam Mahamid
      Sheikh Tawfiq Salama

      Yehuda Stolov, Director
      E-mail: msyuda@...

      All contributions are welcome, small and large!

      NEW: Donate on-line at: http://www.interfaith-encounter.org/donations.htm
      Contributions made from the U.S., Switzerland and the U.K. are tax

      You and others are welcome to join our e-mailing lists by sending a blank
      message to:
      * In Israel (gets also invitations):
      * Abroad (gets reports only): iea-reports-subscribe@egroups.com
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