Being in a place such as the Quad-Cities, where most residents tend to be tolerant and some are interested in the world's major religions, makes it possible to host joint classes on Islam, Judaism and Christianity in a special three-week series, a local religious leader said.
"I feel we have a unique situation here, among the United States," the Rev. Mike Schaab from St. Pius X Catholic Church in Rock Island said. "People of different faiths in other parts of the country and the world would be loath to walk down the street with one another."
The Inter-religious Dialogue sessions begin Thursday and will be led by Schaab, Imam Saad Baig from the Islamic Center of the Quad-Cities in Moline and Rabbi Tamar Grimm of the Tri-City Jewish Center in Rock Island.
"Seeing what is beautiful about another faith tradition is a life skill," said Grimm, who also appreciates the fact that the Quad-City community is a place where such lessons can be held openly and celebrated.
This area is a very good location for interfaith dialogue, Baig agreed.
"We are blessed to have people from every walk of life here in the Quad-Cities," he said. "We try to inform those individuals who come and who see value and potential in this kind of program."
A rarity at first
Such cooperation between faiths was a novelty when it began many years ago. But it has evolved over time, Schaab said, including special commemorations of 9/11, and the recent 10th anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks, an event that attracted an overflow crowd to Augustana College in Rock Island.
The interfaith sessions are designed with a tone free from politics.
You have free articles remaining.
"Our goal is to educate, to give people information," Grimm said. For example, the first session will be on the separate calendars, holy days and celebrations of the three faiths. It will take place at the Islamic Center.
Grimm intends to talk about the cycle of the year in Judaism and how it begins in the autumn. She also will speak about symbolism in the Jewish holidays. Catholics are on the Gregorian calendar, Schaab said, while many Muslims follow a lunar calendar.
A tour that will wrap up the first event at the Islamic Center will include time to witness Muslims in prayer, Baig said. Visitors will see inside the building, its special setting, and then be invited to watch as evening prayers are conducted.
The classes should be appealing, Schaab said. During the Feb. 16 session, visitors will see an actual Torah scroll at the Tri-City Jewish Center, and they will be able to view a copy of the Koran, the Muslim holy book.
"Looking at sacred scriptures will be very interesting to many Christians," Schaab predicted.
"Each one offers something unique," Grimm said. "But at the same time, it amazes me how much we share, in every one of our traditions."
Schaab, the Catholic priest, believes that knowledge gained from the Inter-religious Dialogues deepens faith. "We want to be supportive, appreciative and sensitive to one another," he added.
Baig, a Muslim imam, said such education teaches respect for all faiths. There also is value in seeing leaders of these faiths together on one stage, he pointed out. Baig cited a phrase that he believes is central to the outreach effort: "The more you sweat in making peace, the less you will bleed in war."
Grimm, who took over her part in the forum from her predecessor, Rabbi Michael Samuel, hopes to find continuing acceptance for the lessons.
"People are curious, people want to know and people want to understand," she said.