As an Episcopal Clergy, I am called to share God’s good news to all I encounter. What has been a wonderful experience for me as the board president of Interfaith Action of Central Texas, is to also receive the good news from many faith traditions. God shines in the faces of many and I have seen the glory of God in many of the people I meet from diverse faiths.
About 100 pastors, priests, rabbis, Imams, and members of various faith communities around Austin recently gathered for IACT’s annual Friends in Faith luncheon. We celebrated friendship and faith and to participate in a panel conversation that focused on the diversity within Islam.
IACT Executive Director Simone Talma Flowers moderated the diverse panel of Muslim Faith leaders that included Imam Mohamed Umer Esmail, Abbas Bandali, Shadia Igram, Constance Shabazz and Guner Arslan. They shared their love for the Muslim faith. They were from Chicago, Canada, Tanzania and Turkey.
“In our Friday worship,” Arslan said, “we come together in tremendous diversity — ethnic, racial, all sects and types. But when we join together to pray, we are in total harmony despite our diversity. It gives me hope that humanity can do that as well.”
The panelists tried to dispel the notion that they are somehow outsiders because they are Muslim. Igram said. “We need to abolish ‘othering’ … I am equally American and Muslim. Each one enhances each other. There have been Muslims in America for almost 400 years,” she said.
The common appeal was for the ability to express their faith no matter where they go. There was a yearning for connection to the broader community as we all have the common need to live our lives to our fullest as God has intended.
At the end of the Friends in Faith Luncheon, I offered this closing prayer on behalf of all:
“Awaken us, Thou, to see as you see, hear as you hear, think as you think, and feel as you feel. Inspire us to join you and your beloved everywhere to co-create a more equitable community. Move us to partner across our social, political and religious divides to achieve the beauty of a more perfect union.
We need your wisdom and power to do all this. So feed us, we pray, with the daily bread of collaboration, humility, compassion and joy. Nurture us with models of human love and justice.
Release us from the burden of our debts: From our blind disregard of others in need, from our ignorance of those so easily scapegoated and without hope in this world. Set us free to be freeing agents, reflecting who you are by loving the world as you love the world.
There will be trials and tribulations in this work, we know. So we pray for steadfastness and courage to keep us from alluring diversions that tempt us to withdraw and hide in shame and fear from you and one another.
Finally, we beseech you to deliver us from those who dominate others in the name of a concept, a cause or a god. By partnering with you and your beloved — your beloved who are found in every religion, country and tribe — may we rest in the confidence, hope and love that comes from knowing we are not alone and that we cannot go it alone — but that we need you and each other. Amen.”