RELATIONSHIPS, INROADS, HIGHLIGHT INTERFAITH COUNCIL’S 20 YEARS
By LORETTA FULTON
For its 20th anniversary celebration, Abilene Interfaith Council did what it does best–provided a venue for meaningful conversation, enlightened with excellent programming, and fed well.
The council’s motto is, “Breaking Bread Together in Peace,” and on Sept. 19, members shared much more than bread. A table in Gerhart Hall at the Episcopal Church of the Heavenly Rest was spread will all kinds of delicious treats, including a birthday cake.
Sarah Dannemiller, president of the council, led an opening presentation, with insightful questions designed for table discussion.
“We’re trying to come to an understanding of one another,” Dannemiller said, encouraging everyone to discuss the questions she posed.
Dannemiller also announced that the AIC will be included in this year’s Abilene Gives, which will be held Dec. 3. It’s an intentional day of giving when Abilenians are encouraged to support local nonprofits. A website will allow donors to select a nonprofit to give to.
Longtime member Omer Hancock presented a list of highlights from the council’s 20-year history. He noted that over 20 years, the AIC has met in venues all over town, including numerous churches and on the campuses of all three church-affiliated universities.
“I think that in itself is good,” Hancock said. “Even that communicates something valuable.”
The council got its start when a Jew, a Muslim, and an Episcopal priest got together to talk about the importance of such a group. Since then, the council has hosted 160 programs. Among the highlights are:
Dr. Arun Ghandi, grandson of Mahatma Ghandi, speaking on peacemaking
Dr. Diana Eck, director of the Pluralism Project at Harvard University, speaking on increasing religious pluralism
Maestro David Itkin, dirctor of the Abilene Philharmonic, who spoke on the inspiration for his Pulitzer-nominated symphony, “Jonah”
Latif Bolat, a Muslim musician and poet, who discussed the healing sounds of ancient Turkish mystic Sufi music traditions
Dr. Rob Sellers, former chair of the board of the Parliament of the World’s Religions, speaking on why interfaith matters to us and to the world
Hancock noted that the AIC has sponsored programs from a variety of faith tradtions, incluidng Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Baha’i, and Pagan. Since 2004, the council has sponsored a community gathering on the National Day of Prayer each May.
“I think that’s a very enriching opportunity,” Hancock said.
“Going Forward” can be written with an exclamation point or with a question mark, Hancock said, as the council enters its next phase. During the first 20 years, the council has laid the groundwork for building wonderful relationships and for making inroads into interfaith cooperation.
So, will the Abilene Interfaith Council write “Going Forward” with an exclamation point or a question mark, Hancock asked and then answered his own question.
“I think it’s both,” he said.
NEXT ABILENE INFAITH COUNCIL MEETING
WHEN: 7 p.m. Oct. 14
WHERE: Mabee Room, Campus Center, McMurry University
SPEAKER: Mohammed Al Samawi, author of “The Fox Hunt: A Refugee’s Memoir of Coming to America”
TITLE: “Building Bridges: Interfaith Dialogue Across the Islamic, Jewish, and Christian Communities”
TOPIC: Al Samawi will speak on his escape from Yemen after death threats because of his interfaith activism and work for peace.
ADMISSION: Free, public invited