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Sharing Blessings of Peace

This is Holy Week for Christians, a time to learn again about Christ’s Passion, from the triumphal entry into Jerusalem along a path strewn with palms, to the Last Supper and the institution of the rite of Communion, through the agony and death on the Cross and the vigil until Resurrection on Easter Sunday. The story includes grief and suffering and confounds us as victory is snatched from death and the entire human race is redeemed.

Meanwhile we are also midway through the month of Ramadan, a time of fasting and prayer, a time of spiritual awakening for Muslims around the world. And today is Holi, a celebration of color, love, and spring for Hindus. Soon we will celebrate Passover, a commemoration of God’s great act freeing the Hebrew people from slavery and bringing them out of Egypt.

Yesterday my husband and I attended Palm Sunday services; we listened to beautiful liturgical music pulling us into the story of Christ’s passion and death. Later that day we enjoyed an Iftar meal breaking fast with Muslim friends at their home and sharing stories of hope and reconciliation. We are also actively planning an instructional Interfaith Seder to help non-Jews learn about Passover and its customs and rituals. Close friends headed off to a Holi celebration today.  It is a busy time with lots of bridge building opportunities for people of faith!

I feel the Presence acutely in this week, this month, of convergence. We have a world full of faithful people praying for peace, for reconciliation, for joy and health for all humanity. Outside my window the sun is finally sparkling on the still wet branches after a rain shower. The birds are busy at the feeder. Flowers are popping up everywhere. And yet there is pain in so much of the world today.

What brings me hope in a world that is also full of despair? People do!

We recently finished a three-session pilot of our new Interfaith Bridges™ – University Edition program sponsored by San Francisco State University.

Through this program, students:

 Gain understanding of other faiths.

 Are exposed to other religions.

 Share their authentic experiences.

 See humanity in varying beliefs.

 Interact with “the other” safely.

 Engage in relationship building.

 Gain a basis for more engagement.

 Counter their unconscious bias.

Our ten student participants entered the program voluntarily and enthusiastically. When asked what about the program gives them hope for peace and understanding, they replied:

·       People are more open than I initially anticipated.

·       All three religions strongly believe in loving thy neighbor and helping repair and improve the world.

·       So many students showed up and were honest and willing to share their stories.

·       We are similar and respect each other in our differences.

This program employed dialogue and a collaborative, interactive art project to engage the students.  Students were curious, excited to learn and embraced both similarities and differences.

These students tell us they are now interested in learning more about the other faiths and feel like they know enough to spark some conversations with others about their different faiths.

In a world where there is so much fear, hatred and violence directed against “the other,” it was a blessing for us to facilitate these encounters among students who came from different faiths.  We were excited to witness students both learning about other faiths and opening to new relationships and opportunities. We hope this example brings you hope and a recognition that we can counter the darkness.

We need more opportunities in this world to create these encounters in safe spaces with people open to learning and building new relationships.  We are offering our Interfaith Bridges™ – University Edition program to other universities and colleges, and our flagship Interfaith Bridges™ program to faith communities, across the United States.

We at Building Bridges Together™ wish all of you blessings of peace.

If you want to support our work, please donate to Building Bridges Together today!

Diane Frankle, Chairman of the Board and COO, Building Bridges Together

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