Thursday, July 17, 2014

My Journey with Project Interfaith

written by guest blogger, Kerri Dietz-Pillen

Like me, have you imagined living in a world where people of all faiths, beliefs and cultures are valued, included and protected?
Like me could you get excited about it?

Would you like to believe that in your immediate community and eventually around the world everyone can be in a classroom where their faith or their culture is celebrated, every health care provider who sees a patient understands how that person’s specific belief system will affect their ability to receive and respond to care, and every business helps their employees of every creed feel understood and comfortable?

Working along with Project Interfaith to develop a world like this is exciting to me!

It excites me that Project Interfaith is right here in Omaha. I have been excited to watch this genesis, one person at a time, one business place and classroom at a time, one city at a time. I have been excited to see specific programs like the Education Trunk and RavelUnravel build interaction between people who likely not otherwise routinely interact with each other: people from different geographic positions, from different positions of affluence and power, from different positions of belief and culture, from different developmental positions in life.

Project Interfaith engages me. It engages all of us, using a variety of ways that people can interact with each other, all to produce this community of respect and relationships that has grown literally across the country and across the world.

It excites me to work with Project Interfaith because when I asked if I could help in any way they said, “Yes!” And every time Project Interfaith engages me in volunteer work they give me fantastic education and appropriate tools to do my job well, often including sessions after the event where we share our experiences with the staff and other volunteers.

Becoming a certified Project Interfaith speaker caused me to re-examine and rediscover the amazing structure and philosophy that led to PI being recognized internationally for their effectiveness in changing the world one heart at a time. In my studies to become a speaker for them, I revisited the Project Interfaith “Vision” which “strives to create a community and world where people of all faiths, beliefs, and cultures are valued, included and protected.” It inspired me to reassess everything in my life in those terms – Valued, Included, Protected.

My most exciting experience at PI has been that of being part of the RavelUnravel during pilot phase. Our teams went out to people in this area and personally asked and filmed the answers to four questions about their beliefs and the personal community experiences that have sprung from these identities. Now, after gaining the personal experience, I completely understand that if I were to visit the places of worship and fellowship of a wide variety of people I have never met, I would be very welcome and feel very comfortable. Despite this newfound knowledge, I cannot imagine another scenario that would have put me into meetings in people’s homes who are Baha’i or Sikh – or into a Pentecostal church or a synagogue… In these places I was able to learn what has inspired the person across from me to follow the spiritual path they have chosen, and these people were willing to share how others in this community have affected them in their journey.

This has been one of the most sacred experiences of my life.

Come join Project Interfaith in our journey! For you, too, it could be the first step in a journey of a thousand miles.

Kerri Dietz-Pillen is currently the owner of Bellevue Vision Clinic. A graduate from Ohio State University, Kerri has played a large role in volunteering for Project Interfaith throughout the years.

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