DEARBORN — People from various faiths and backgrounds joined together for a gathering held by the Interfaith Partners of the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion (MRDI), on Tuesday, March 25, at the Islamic Center of America.
Interfaith Partners is a grassroots network made up of over 30 board members representing different religions in the area, including Muslims, Christians, Jews and Sikhs. The group was founded after the national tragedy of September 11, in an effort to promote understanding and eliminate discrimination among different religions and cultures. Their mission is to encourage inter-religious dialogue, education and cooperative service in different communities.
The gathering hosted individuals representing numerous congregations from the Metro Detroit area, and featured remarks from Rev. Daniel Buttry, who discussed his recent book, “Interfaith Heroes.” The book pays tribute to men and women who exhibit a dedication to strengthening communities and promoting peace by making contact with people from other religious traditions. It features 31 biographies of individuals throughout history who crossed boundaries to help build stronger communities.
Buttry, who travels around the world spreading messages of tolerance and understanding among inter-faith groups, spoke of his experiences in destructed and war-torn regions.
“I’ve seen people of every faith do amazing things for peace, justice and reconciliation across the religious divide,” Buttry stated. “There are so many people who daily take their faith into action, amid conflict and even violence, to live lives dedicated to justice for all people. Their stories need to be told.”
Buttry said that through his visits to the Middle East, Asia, and other parts of the world, he came across many inspirational people who reached out to others of different religions, even if they were on opposing sides of a conflict.
“Many times I found that the same types of stories were being told by people of different backgrounds,” Buttry claimed. “That is a true mark of an interfaith hero, someone who is able to reach out across boundaries and make a difference.”
Buttry added that he hopes to develop documentary films about the heroes featured in his book, in hopes of reaching a broader audience.
The evening also served as a kickoff event for a new initiative called “Interfaith Ambassadors,” an ongoing project developed by MRDI to further promote their message of peace and understanding. The initiative is based on the concept of individuals gathering together to participate in discussions and activities that will enhance their understanding of different faiths. Newly appointed Chairman of the Board of the MRDI, Leon Tupper, spoke to the attendees about the initiative and its purpose.
“Our purpose is to rid society of the bigotry and biases that often get in the way of progress,” said Tupper. “We truly recognize the importance of cultural and religious tolerance in this community. We want to bring together a number of faith communities and give them the opportunity to experience learning about each other.”
Tupper went on to stress that dialogue between individuals is perhaps the most effective way to bring about change. He claimed sharing stories and experiences helps build a better understanding about different faiths.
“This initiative is about people coming together to learn about each other’s faith,” Tupper continued. “We believe that this is the most impactful way of changing the community, and changing the world.”
The meeting included a Q&A session and open discussion with Buttry, who also signed copies of his book. A second edition of “Interfaith Heroes” is currently in the works. The gathering concluded with a breakout session where participants began working as Interfaith Ambassadors by sharing in discussions with members of different congregations. Each group explored ideas about future activities that individuals from different faiths could participate in. To learn more about the Interfaith Ambassadors initiative, or to become an Interfaith Partner, please visit www.miroundtable.org.