We're working in a community that is still predominantly Christian (Roman Catholics are the largest religious community in the Omaha area, followed by ELCA Lutherans , United Methodists and Missouri Synod Lutherans) but is rapidly diversifying. Though we have many different religiuos traditions represented in our area, interaction among and between these religious groups is limited and sporadic. On an individual level, people may work with, know and even be friends with people of different faiths without ever really learning much about each other's religious beliefs and traditions, which is a shame given how central religion often is to shaping how one understands our world and one's role in it. That's where we step in.
What we do...
Project Interfaith educates and engages people on issues of faith, religion, interfaith relations, and religious diversity -- and we try not to be too stuffy about it (because life is too short to sit around and yawn) . We recognize that for many people the traditional model of "dialogue" (sitting around in a circle sharing your beliefs) is not comfortable or even appealing. So we try to find creative ways (like interfaith architecture tours, storytelling festivals, study cricles, and speakers series) to get people to learn about each other's religious traditions as well as their own. We also provide trainings for educators, health care providers and other professionals on religious diversity issues and how these issues may impact the services they provide and the way in which they provide them.
Not your mother's interfaith organization...
Now quite a few people have taken issue with interfaith work because they think that it is trying to reduce all the religions down to a few common core values. And while this was a common phenomena in the early genesis of the American interfaith movement in the 1970s and 1980s, I have to say that the interfaith movement has come a long way. Project Interfaith's philosphy on interfaith work reflects where, by and large, the interfaith movement is today rather than was two or three decades ago.
We at Project Interfaith are interested in:
- building trust, not agreement;
- educating people about the basic tenets of the major world religions;
- identifying commonalities among the different religions but never at the expense of respecting and appreciating the differences;
- eliminating stereotypes and misunderstandings about the major religious traditions;
- helping people recognize the diversity in belief and practice that often exists within a religious community;
- serving as a resource on these issues for people from all faith traditions and those who are not affiliated;
- creating safe environments where people can openly and honestly explore their faith and the faiths of others.
The proverbial interfaith penny dish...
Ever been ready to buy something and realized that you were a cent or two short? Isn't it great when there is a dish of pennies around to help you cover the costs? And it is great to leave your pennies in that dish and not have them weigh down your wallet or get stuck in the corners of your purse. Well, we at Project Interfaith would like for you to think of us as the proverbial interfaith penny dish- please feel free to take our resources and use our work as models for work in your communities but also consider sharing your interfaith wisdom and experiences with us, too.
We want to hear from you!
What's going on in your community in terms of interfaith activities and relations? What, in your experience, has worked and what hasn't? What types of interfaith programs, experiences or resources have you found helpful or downright inspirational? We are especially interested in people who live in other Midwestern communities that, like Omaha, are still predominantly Christian but are becoming increasingly religiously diverse (though we welcome feedback from anyone, anywhere!). Let us know how Project Interfaith can be a resource to you and your community...
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