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A peaceful path among three faiths

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by MATTHEW NASH
Sequim Gazette

In an effort to bridge the gap of religious differences in America, the Interfaith Amigos are creating fresh dialogue across the country and soon will open up a conversation in Sequim.

 

Three compadres from Christian, Jewish and Islamic backgrounds — the Rev. Don Mackenzie, Rabbi Ted Falcon and Imam Jamal Rahman — visit Trinity United Methodist Church on Jan. 29 for an afternoon of discussion and exploration of faith.

 

Soon after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the men began meeting weekly to discuss a better way of creating perceptions among faiths, particularly of Islam. In 10-plus years, their friendship blossomed into a radio show, two books together, visits to the Middle East and touring with their presentation.

 

Mackenzie said even with their different backgrounds, they get along great.

 

“It’s deepening our individual faiths as well as an understanding of our shared spirituality,” Mackenzie said.

 

Their work isn’t competitive but cooperative, Rahman said.

 

“It proves the point that we make, interfaith is not about conversion but about completion,” Rahman said. “As I learn more about Christianity and the Jewish faith, it waters my roots.”

 

Falcon said they’ve met countless people who radically disagree with their ideologies.

 

“First thing we want to tell them is thank you for their willingness to disagree with us,” Falcon said. “We want to reframe it … We don’t want to change (their) approach.”

 

In their presentation and books they discuss how they open dialogue across faiths and denominations.

Rahman said personal relationships with people of other faiths is essential and once established can begin collaboration on issues like social justice and the environment.

 

“We’ve been able to expand dialogue that ideally helps people create that dialogue in their own communities,” Falcon said.

 

In one city they discovered an interfaith group that had met for eight years but didn’t speak publicly until after the Amigos’ presentation.

 

Touring the nation, most of their audiences are Christian communities like Sequim.

 

Falcon said issues are not just interfaith but intrafaith: They encourage people to talk within their own faiths and denominations. Churches of all kinds have welcomed them.

 

“Their willingness is encouraging,” Rahman said. “The question of interfaith, it’s not a matter of a nice thing. It’s a matter of survival. It’s essential that we do this dialogue.”

 

One of the most common questions they receive is why other faiths aren’t included.

 

Mackenzie said religious struggles are among Christians, Jews and Muslims, such as the Israel-Palestine conflict and America’s Muslim phobia.

 

“If we three religions could learn to live with each other, we could change the environment we live in,” Mackenzie said.

 

Following a research poll about building a mosque at Ground Zero in New York City, 37 percent were in favor of building it. Rahman said those 37 percent each knew at least one Muslim person whereas those against building did not know a Muslim.

 

Falcon said traditionally attendees find not only a deeper understanding of other faiths, but of their own.

 

They encourage questions and those who disagree to attend, as well.

 

“Every once in a while, we get an unexpected question,” Mackenzie said. “The more challenging the question the more we end up learning.”

 

For free tickets, call Trinity United Methodist Church at 683-5367.

 


Reach Matthew Nash at mnash@sequimgazette.com.
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