OMAHA, Nebraska - Building bridges between followers of different faiths, American groups have launched a multi-faith complex that would include a mosque, church and temple to connect followers of the three Abrahimic religions.
"It's unique to the world where the representatives of the three Abrahamic faiths have intentionally built places of worship next to each other in one neighborhood," Vic Gutman, spokesman for the Tri-Faith Project, said, reported the Arab American News website.
"Our hope is that this experience will not only help the members of the congregations learn from each other but that people throughout the world will learn from our experience as well."
Being the first of its kind in the world, the Tri-Faith project in Omaha will comprise three sites: Temple Israel, the Episcopal Diocese of Nebraska (including a church) and the American Institute of Islamic Studies and Culture (which includes a mosque).
It will also include a large central Tri-Faith Center connecting the three religious centers for common events and meetings.
"Our vision is to build bridges of respect, acceptance and trust, to challenge stereotypes, to learn from each other and to counter the influence of fear and misunderstanding," read a statement on the project's website.
The building will also house an auditorium and briefing room for conferences, lectures, symposiums and film screenings, coffee shops and gathering spaces, kitchen and dining facilities and space for traveling exhibits.
The site will also include educational and social facilities to be used by all of the religious groups sharing the campus.
The privately-funded project will cost nearly $50 million and will be opened in the fall of 2013, although work on individual buildings could continue for another year or two.
Bridges, Not Walls
Showing extraordinary understanding and cooperation, representatives of the three faiths hailed the project as extending bridges inside the American society.
"In a time when the world is engaged in building walls, this is a celebration of building bridges," Dr. Syed M. Mohiuddin, president of the Islamic center, said.
"As the Holy Qur'an reminds us of the common bond among us: 'We believe in what has been revealed to us and what has been revealed to you (Jews and Christians). Our God and your God is one and the same: and it is to him we submit."
John Lehr, president of Temple Israel, also welcomed the new multi-faith neighborhood.
"How serendipitous it is that on the very ground where Omaha's Jews once congregated at the only Country Club that would have us, he said.
We are now poised to congregate again, but this time, in a peaceful and beautiful multi-faith neighborhood, linked together by bridges of dialogue and mutual understanding."
Tim Anderson, Canon for Episcopal Tri-Faith Ministries, is also looking forward to the completion of the project.
"In our baptismal covenant in the Episcopal Church we make the following promises: to seek and serve Christ in all persons; to love our neighbors as ourselves; to strive for justice and peace among all people; and to respect the dignity of every human being, Anderson said.
We will now have a unique opportunity to live out those promises with our new Jewish and Muslim neighbors."
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.