Bridging Interfaith Communities

There are two things I have found most amazing in Cincinnati.  The first is that individuals of different faiths are coming together for a common good.  The second most amazing thing is seeing these groups begin to work together to build a stronger city.

For the past eight months, through the support of the Brueggeman Center at Xavier University and Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, we have been observing how interfaith work functions in the city of Cincinnati.  We have seen a variety of groups that have come together.  Each of these interfaith groups that we have found in Cincinnati are unique and serves a unique purpose.   We have found groups working together to feed the hungry, to shelter the homeless, to defend worker rights, while other have come together to bring about peace in their community.  There are spiritual reasons, social reasons, and economic reasons why these groups have formed.  Overwhelmingly, interfaith groups were established based on a particular shared need or concern.

 

All of these groups have had to overcome differences of some sort.  Some have had to overcome simple things like agreeing on a type of food to serve or selecting the day of the week to hold an event that is acceptable to all faiths.   Their definition of interfaith varies as well.  Some groups are more ecumenical but they too have had to overcome differences in order to work together.   For some groups, just working with another congregation within their religion is a huge step and that is where their interfaith begins.  They are breaking down barriers within their religion that have existed for many generations and still exist in some parts of the world.  Some groups have been able to go beyond the borders of Christianity or Islam or Judaism and have been able to branch out across many faiths.  They have learned to respect one another and build a relationship with one another.  They have found commonalities that they share, namely their passion and concern for humanity.   

Our project through the Brueggeman Center was to identify these groups and learn about them.  But upon doing so, we found that these groups can benefit by communicating with each other.    We hope that by building InterfaithCincy.org, these groups can begin to learn from one another, share their ideas, and support one another.  Each group has an amazing potential to expand their goals and reach beyond their expectations.   We have found that a group that has been running a food pantry can share with the group that is just beginning a food pantry.  We have found that a group that has been dealing with a very diverse interfaith group can help those who may be struggling to dialogue within their group.  When the groups were interviewed on their greatest successes, they each replied that their greatest success happens when they plan together.  When they work together they can achieve amazing things.  When a building is needed for a community food pantry, one congregation may not have the solution, but as they plan together, the opportunity appears.   When a community of women come together to create a cultural extravaganza is comes with great success because they come to it with openness that was never there before.  

There are amazing things happening in Cincinnati through interfaith work.  It is a power so strong and something so special about it that could not exist without the differences and uniqueness of the people involved.  These groups have realized that yes, they are so different, but they can do so many amazing things together.  When we participate together, we create this new environment that was never there before.