Interfaith Reflections on a Hurting World

“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet”.
-Frederick Buechner

“When we seek what is truest in our own tradition, we discover that we are one with those who seek what is truest in their tradition.”
-James Finley

Frederick Buechner’s words deeply speak to me, and I’ve discovered that one of the places where my deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet is in the interfaith world — building bridges between people of different faith traditions (and with people of no faith tradition). I have experienced God in fresh and profound ways during my twenty-year involvement with the Philadelphia Interfaith Walk for Peace and Reconciliation Group, and I give thanks for the opportunity to be part of this most amazing community. For the past 20 years our annual walk has included stops at three houses of worship for prayers, teachings, singing, and fellowship. The tone of the walk is contemplative, and the intention has been to celebrate our unity and to learn from one another as we walk from one house of worship to the next one. Each year we have walked in different locations in Philadelphia as we seek to build bridges between people of different faith traditions throughout the Philadelphia area.

At the beginning of each of our monthly meetings, someone shares a reflection from their religion. We then take a few minutes of silence, and each person responds in a personal way from his or her own faith tradition. As James Finley’s quote says so well, this sharing becomes a source of strength and understanding between the members of our group, and we have all grown both in our understanding of each other’s faith traditions and in our relationships with each other throughout this process.

In these days when the world feels so broken, I confess to sometimes feeling overwhelmed and tempted to close my eyes and ears to the world around me. Thankfully, however, I have also learned the healing power of deep listening and am committed to continue doing this. My spiritual director recently asked me these questions. “How it is that I am alive at this time in this place?” And “What is mine to do?”

These questions have touched me deeply and I am listening. Several days ago, I attended an Interfaith Iftar at a masjid that our Peace Walk group is deeply connected with. I listened to people of different faith traditions share their pain, their frustrations, and their fears. I also heard people talk about their deep desire to change the narrative of the “Other” in the media and to show the world that we can live together. Heads were nodding energetically as the message was stated that “We are one and we can live together.”

During the sharing time, the rabbi who helped organize this gathering told the story of his personal struggle since Oct. 7. Rabbi Shawn told us that he was deeply troubled and realized that he had quietly begun to distance himself from his friends and partners of different faith traditions (many of whom were at this gathering). During his prayer time, Rabbi Shawn heard the words, “Think of the person you would most like to hear from and call that person.” He did. Rabbi Shawn learned that his Imam friend had been lying awake, also deeply troubled. The men talked and the idea of this Interfaith Iftar was born. When it came to my turn to share with the group, I heard myself saying with great feeling, “I don’t know where we go from here but I’m in.”

I am grateful that Tilden Edwards’ deep interest in interfaith dialogue continued when Shalem was founded. Bringing together my contemplative world of Shalem and my interfaith ministry through the Interfaith Peace Walk feels absolutely right to me. Last spring our group celebrated our 20th and final annual Peace Walk on the streets of Philadelphia. In the following months we had two retreats and are focusing on “walking” with our interfaith and social justice partners as we expand and deepen our connections in the Philadelphia area and beyond.

Like so many folks I want to do something to make a positive difference for this beloved and vulnerable world we live in. I don’t yet have a clear sense of my next steps but trust as I set my intention and keep my spiritual heart open the way forward will show itself.

May 05, 2024 by Linda Toia 1 Comment
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Rev. Sandra Dorsainvil
Rev. Sandra Dorsainvil
1 day ago

To Peace Builder Linda,
I so enjoyed reading your article. I sense the spiritual gift of “mobilizer” in you. I pray you continue to help others cross thresholds of many houses of worship.
From Peace Builder Sandra

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