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Illinois Faith Leaders Find Common Ground

Published: 15/01/2012 01:36:20 PM GMT
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CAIRO - Houses of worship in Illinois Quad-City will open their (more)

CAIRO - Houses of worship in Illinois Quad-City will open their doors to Christian priests, Muslim scholars and Jewish rabbis to help residents find a common ground of understanding between the three Abrahamic faiths.

"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 told Quad-City Times on Saturday, January 14.

"People of different faiths in other parts of the country and the world would be loath to walk down the street with one another."

Building on years of interfaith work, representatives from the three Abrahamic religions suggested interfaith dialogue sessions in the city.

The sessions, which began last Tuesday and will run through February, 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.

Launching dialogue years ago, interfaith relations have evolved over time, Schaab said, including special commemorations of 9/11, and the recent 10th anniversary of the 2001 attacks.

Yet, the new sessions are designed with a tone free from politics to educate the city residents about what the three faiths have in common.

"Our goal is to educate, to give people information," Grimm said.

To reach this goal, the sessions will educate residents about separate calendars, holy days and celebrations of the three faiths.

The first session will be held at the Islamic Center during which attendants will have a tour at the center, including time to witness Muslims in prayer, Baig said.

As for Rabbi Grimm, he will talk about the cycle of the year in Judaism and how it begins in the autumn.

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 Qur'an, the Muslim holy book.

"Looking at sacred scriptures will be very interesting to many Christians," Schaab predicted.

Common Ground

The interfaith sessions will help audience to find the common ground different religions share.

"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."

"Seeing what is beautiful about another faith tradition is a life skill," said Grimm

Living in Quad-City, the leaders of the three faiths felt grateful to the community where such lessons can be held openly and celebrated.

"We are blessed to have people from every walk of life here in the Quad-Cities," Baig said.

"We try to inform those individuals who come and who see value and potential in this kind of program."

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. Grimm agrees, hoping to find continuing acceptance for the lessons.

"People are curious, people want to know and people want to understand," she said.

Though there are no official figures, America is believed to be home to nearly eight million Muslims.

A 2010 report of the North American Jewish Data Bank puts the number of Jews in the US at around 6.5 million.

Sharing the same venue by the three faith leaders, Baig, the Muslim imam, hopes it will teach people to respect all faiths.  

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."

Reproduced with permission from