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.
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:
This article appeared today in the Omaha World-Herald BY RABBI ARYEH AZRIEL, WENDY GOLDBERG, NASER Z. ALSHARIF AND THE REV. CANON TIM ANDERSON The writers, all of Omaha, are board members of the Tri-Faith Initiative. Azriel and Goldberg are senior rabbi and program director, respectively, of Temple Israel. Alsharif is secretary of the American Institute of Islamic Studies and Culture. Anderson is canon for development of the Episcopal Diocese of Nebraska. Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” In 2006, a group of Omaha leaders made a bold decision to form a partnership with the goal of co-locating to an interfaith campus. Temple Israel, the Episcopal Diocese of Nebraska and the American Institute of Islamic Studies and Culture signed a mutual agreement of understanding to create the Tri-Faith Initiative of Omaha. We remain committed to this goal. Our dialogue actually began nine years ago. From its inception, we knew the day would arrive that would require us to gather at a table in the midst of war in the Middle East. How would we continue building our friendships of mutual understanding? It took place at a meeting involving the emotional sharing of personal narratives of three leaders of the Tri-Faith Initiative — an Israeli-born Reform Jewish American rabbi; an American Muslim professor born in Palestine; and a native Nebraskan Episcopal priest. The tearful conversation was the kind of honest exchange that is necessary to reach peace. The initiative, one said, “gives us all strength to have each other and to each respect our individual relationships with God. To understand and to know each other will move us forward.” Another added: “The pain is so great. What is really at stake in our Holy Land? We are suffering. Who is scoring political points? Is this about geopolitical struggle? What is the value of every human life? All people are victims. The violence must stop. The violence will not bring safety. “This ongoing war has decimated my entire family. I no longer have a family. Just tears. There is no monopoly on pain. We all have people being killed. Will we strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being? Our response is, ‘We will, with God’s help.’ ” Our stories are woven together with threads of pain and love for our people and the land. We shared stories of loss of friends and family. We acknowledged our mutual regard for human life, especially those who have died as a result of the ongoing struggle. We heard each other’s memories of war — pain and fear, dreams for the Holy Land. We cried. We hugged. Our years of conversation and education had clear rewards as we witnessed and felt the pain of the others. The participants said, “We stand together in condemnation of the violence, pain and suffering. We hope for peace and coexistence in the Holy Land. We understand that politics alone will not end this conflict.” The Holy Land is more than borders and settlements. The tragedies reach beyond Gaza; our message must be a global one. In Omaha, we are privileged by our influence and freedoms. Yet we feel guilty; our selfishness and greed have desensitized us. Are we assuming our responsibilities? Today we, the leadership of the Tri-Faith Initiative, call upon ourselves to honestly reawaken our consciences, including progressive change to build relationships, to honor a nd respect the other. We raise our voices to work toward peace. Recognizing the challenges ahead requires hope, faith and a commitment to work hard, together, to solve the many problems of our generation. TriFaith gives us hope — hope for the future in the midst of despair. Despite the strong feelings roused around our table by the crisis in Gaza, the initiative continues to move forward and remains committed to its first public event, “Dinner in Abraham’s Tent: Conversations on Peace,” featuring the national leaders of each of our movements: Rabbi Peter Knobel, Dr. Ingrid Mattson and Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori of the U.S. Episcopal Church. The event, set for Friday, March 27, at the Qwest Center, will feature a worship service followed by a dinner and a conversation among the faith leaders on the theme of “Shalom, Salaam, Peace.” In the words of Rabbi Jonathan Magonet, “May our courage match our convictions and our integrity match our hope.” How can we still attempt the Tri-Faith Initiative when there is a war going on in the Middle East? How can we not?