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