The following is a letter written by 17 year old Tayler Khan of Kearney, Nebraska. Tayler comes from a more peculiar family than the average household. With grandparents of the Jewish, Muslim, and Christian faiths, she has personally gone through the obstacles our organization is aiming to overcome. Though a kid, her parents, and their parents could be labeled as a family, only birth certificates and marriage licenses could prove this. As a child of Jewish, Muslim, and Christian faiths, I’ve learned to grow up in a war of worlds. My Muslim grandfather only participated in Christmas for the commercial appeal and my Christian grandparents have never even heard of Eid or Shavuot, let alone know any of the traditions. Stereotypes about Jews, and the rampant increase in Muslims, have perpetuated among the United States, especially in places like Nebraska where the population is mostly uni-dimensional. Rather than learn from others, fear and dismissive notions break any stride toward unity. Growing up with all three religions around me, I know the beauty and morality that they bring, along with the exciting customs and storytelling. Any young girl could be inspired by the actions of Queen Esther, celebrated in the Jewish holiday, Purim, and the lessons of hospitality and charity from the Quran are universal to all human beings. I’m tired of the infighting among my family, and America, however, a step towards ending that has finally been taken. With a hopeful completion in 2019, the Tri-Faith Initiative in Omaha is the message I’ve been waiting for my entire life. The [campus] will combine a Synagogue, Mosque, and Church into one [plot of land], along with common quarters for mingling. Some may view this as a disaster waiting to happen, but for those who want to have a society formed by messages of peace and tolerance, the organization generates hope in a place the majority of the country wouldn’t imagine. By bringing together these faiths, the initiative is presenting a community that won’t argue over their texts, but share lessons and concepts with each other, and is setting an example our country needs to see.
On March 10, 2016, The Tri-Faith Initiative was featured in a segment on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah on Comedy Central. This was such a fun and exciting way for us to spread our message of interfaith peace and cooperation on a national level. We are glad that through the jokes & laughter, we were able to show the world that learning from one another, sharing ideas, and finding common ground while embracing our differences is the way to find true peace. CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE FULL DAILY SHOW SEGMENT
Construction is moving forward on the Tri-Faith Campus! In late 2015, we broke ground to begin preparing the entire west side of the campus for utilities. The west side will house the American Muslim Institute, Countryside Community Church, and the shared Tri-Faith community building. We will also be building a bridge across Hell Creek to connect the entire campus. In February, we held a meeting to update the surrounding neighborhoods and businesses on the construction plans. Click Here to view the presentation from that meeting.
On Thursday, May 21, 2015, the American Muslim Institute held a ceremonial groundbreaking for their new building on the Tri-Faith Campus. The keynote speaker was Dalia Mogahed, chairman and CEO of Mogahed Consulting, which specializes in Muslim societies and the Middle East. She is former executive director and senior analyst for the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies, and was appointed to President Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, where she served on the Inter-religious Dialogue and Cooperation Task Force. Read Dalia’s very moving speech here: The story of this project inspired me two years ago when I came to Omaha for a talk on leadership. I remember thinking: only in America! This project captures the best of America, appropriately housed in the heart of our nation: Omaha, Nebraska. This project also captures the highest values we are called to in the Abrahamic tradition. Those of mutual respect, service and scholarship. When the world is so full of conflict and cruelty between members of the Abrahamic faiths, this initiative stands as a shining example of what is possible when people practice their faith—instead of pervert it. I truly believe that The American Muslim Institute, an organization dedicated to Islam’s call to compassion and knowledge, is exactly what the world needs today. Because the problems we face as a human family don’t discriminate between color or creed we must work together. Poverty, epidemic disease and a warming planet know nothing about theology and don’t care to learn. Our solutions must also be collective. While reducing our carbon footprint, we must expand our compassion footprint. Leave a legacy of giving and service. To be a Muslim, one must believe in all the Prophets of God, all those sent to teach humanity about their purpose on this Earth, including Jesus and Moses, peace be upon them. The prophet Muhammad, as Islam tells it, is not the first prophet of Islam, but rather the last in a long line of prophets sent to call human beings to forsake false idols, including the worship of money, power and ego, and submit to God alone. Islam simply means devotion to God, which is what Muslims believe all the prophets were teaching. Now Muslims take the prophet Muhammad as their primary example so it is interesting to note how he is described in the Quran. The Quran teaches that the last prophet of God, was not sent except as a “mercy to all the worlds.” The word used in this passage is “Rahmah” which is the Arabic word usually translated as “mercy” or loving compassion, but linguistically it is far more. The prophet taught that this word, a description of God used more often than any other, comes from the word for womb, a mother’s womb. A place of unconditional giving, protection and love. It is this type of love that the Arabic word for Mercy is derived and this is how the Prophet Muhammad is described in the Qur’an, as a “rahmah” to all the worlds. One thing you will learn if you study the language of the Quran is that it is quite precise. No wasted words what so ever. He could have been described as a “warner” which he was, or a “teacher” which he was, or a servant of God, which he was. But instead his primary identity and purpose from God was as a Mercy. And if Muslims claim to take him as their example then this must also be their imprint on the world—a foot print of compassion. AMI is such a foot print. The mission of this initiative are especially dear to me personally as a child of Egyptian immigrants raised to value education almost above oxygen. The Prophet, sitting in the Arabian peninsula, said “Pursue knowledge even as far as China. “ My parents’ followed his advice in principle and but took a different road and ended up instead in Madison, Wisconsin. The cheese road instead of the silk road. There they pursued and eventually earned their doctorates in Civil Engineering. So I was born in the Middle East and brought up in the Mid West. I always had as part of my identity two cultures. The culture my parents carried and the one of our new home in Madison were pretty different, but one thing they did have in common was they both valued education, especially for girls. My sisters and I were told we could do anything we dreamed of if we worked hard and studied. My grandmother didn’t finish high school, but raised a daughter, my mother, who was the only woman in her university class in Cairo University’s aeronautical engineering department, a class of 10,000 students. And it was this dedication to education and a lot of prayers that gave the opportunity to travel the world, co-author a book with a lifetime role model of mine, John Esposito, and even advise a US president. Not bad for a small town Midwestern girl. This is the story of so many American Muslim families who live out their potential in this country while contributing to American progress. The American Muslim Institute is just one more example of this. No doubt, this is an ambitious project, a daunting task and a long road. There is so much to deter us and to discourage us. The Nay Sayers, those who suspect us, those who say it can’t or shouldn’t be done. Yet it is exactly these moments that demand leadership. The leadership of tree planters at the end of time. What am I talking about? The Prophet taught us this: “If you are planting a tree and the end of the world comes, finish planting your tree.” Let this profound statement just sink in for a moment. While some may push for the algebra of apathy: why bother, the chances of success are small, it can’t be done… the future belongs to those whose actions are fueled by the resilience and irrational optimism of the tree planter at the end of time. The algebra of apathy says its never been done so why try. The calculus of compassion says its never been done, so we better get started. -Dalia Mogahed
Rabbi Rick Jacobs mentions Omaha’s interfaith efforts in an interview on CNN on May 5! At 2:50 into the interview, Tri-Faith is brought up as an example of how Jews, Christians and Muslims are working together to build bridges of understanding. Watch the video here: http://youtu.be/a5aELQk_BFQ
Vision of Co-Located Synagogue, Church and Mosque to be Fulfilled OMAHA, Neb., April 14, 2015 —Tri-Faith Initiative of Omaha’s vision of intentionally co-locating a synagogue, church and mosque on a collaborative campus is nearing reality. The organization is comprised of members of the three Abrahamic faiths—Judaism, Christianity and Islam—has announced both the confirmation of the Christian presence and a ceremonial groundbreaking for the Islamic facility on the Tri-Faith campus. This will complete the envisioned tri-faith partnership when they join Temple Israel, constructed in 2013. “This is one religious interaction that brings people together,” said Bob Freeman, chairman of the Tri-Faith Board of Directors. “It offers a hopeful and specific plan for building long-term collaborative communities.” Countryside Community Church (United Church of Christ) announced on Sunday that its congregation voted in favor of relocating their church to the Tri-Faith campus, becoming the Christian presence of the Tri-Faith Initiative. “We have spent many months visioning, discussing, and praying over this decision and as a congregation we have reached the belief that we have been called to relocate our church and to become the Christian presence of the Tri-Faith Initiative,” said Senior Minister Eric Elnes, Countryside Community Church, said. In 2011, Tri-Faith Initiative of Omaha, Temple Israel, the Episcopal Diocese of Nebraska, and the American Muslim Institute (AMI, formerly American Institute for Islamic Studies and Culture) purchased a combined 35 acres of land. The Episcopal Diocese originally planned to build a church at the site and subsequently agreed to sell their land to Countryside Community Church upon the congregational vote for relocation. AMI secured funding for construction of its nondenominational mosque contingent upon a Christian presence. A ceremonial groundbreaking will take place May 21 with construction starting in the fall. “We look forward to an enduring, mutually respectful partnership,” said Dr. Syed Mohiuddin, founding member and AMI president. A shared interfaith center will anchor the campus, which will welcome people of all Abrahamic faiths and provide social, educational and conference facilities. A capital campaign is planned to begin immediately. Tri-Faith Initiative is governed by a local board of directors with representatives from each faith partner and the community. To date all funding supporting the project is from local sources.
CLICK HERE to read the full release.
Lecia Brooks, Director of the Civil Rights Museum of Montgomery, Alabama and Outreach Director of the Southern Poverty Law Center will speak on Thursday, January 15, at 7:00 PM as part of the Annual Lecture Series at the Center for Faith Studies at Countryside Community Church. Ms. Brooks’ talk will focus on the current landscapes of extremist activity in America as well as the effective strategies to combat the ever-present threat to return America to a land of intolerance and fear. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased by calling (402) 391-0350, emailing email@example.com or at the door the evening of the event. Students with ID are always free. The event is co-sponsored by Nebraska Families Collaborative, The Tri-Faith Initiative and the Anti-Defamation League.
Over 350 people made their way down 72 feet of fabulous food at the Tri-Faith picnic at Temple Israel on August 17. Rabbi Aryeh Azriel opened the picnic, inviting Jewish, Christian and Muslim faith leaders to offer prayers for peace. Rabbi Josh Brown, the Rev. Chris Alexander from Countryside Community Church, and Nizam Quassem from the American Institute of Islamic Studies and Culture brought prayers from the three faith traditions. Farhan Khan cooked 240 halal hamburgers and 300 kosher hot dogs to feed the crowd estimated at 350-400. We ran out of name tags at 300 and people kept coming, bringing a bounty of salads, ethnic dishes, fruits and desserts that filled 9 long tables. Children played in the bounce house, had their faces painted by Omaha artist Jessica Kirk, and crowded around the snow cone machine for an icy treat on a hot afternoon. People who hadn’t visited Temple Israel before took guided tours with Temple Program Director Scott Littky. For some Christians and Muslims, it was the first time they had ever been inside a synagogue. Everywhere you looked, people were talking with new friends and old. As Temple president Mike Halsted said “It’s great to see people so engaged”. It was an afternoon to celebrate that not only is the Tri-Faith Initiative possible, it is happening. Thanks to our corporate sponsors for the picnic:
All supporters of the Tri-Faith Initiative are invited to the Tri-Faith picnic August 17 at Temple Israel on the Tri-Faith campus. Not sure what to bring to share? Try some of these ideas: • Fruit or fruit salad • Green salad • Pasta or rice salads (we’ll be outside so no mayo) • Cakes, cookies, brownies
The Tri-Faith Initiative is participating once again in OmahaGives24!, a one-day charity challenge to encourage giving to Omaha non-profits. This is chance to vote for your favorite causes by going on-line to www.omahagives24.org. Using a sports format, the website will feature a “leader board” showing how much each organization has raised from on-line donations starting at 12:01 a.m. on May 21 and going until the stroke of midnight. You can also track what is happening on Facebook and Twitter. If you haven’t “liked” our pages yet, please do. On Facebook go to facebook.com/TriFaithInitiative and on Twitter follow trifaithomaha.