The Midwest seems like an unlikely place to set an example for peace in the Middle East, but that's exactly what the Omaha, Neb., faith community seeks to do. Tomorrow night, Omaha's Tri-Faith Initiative will host "Dinner in Abraham's Tent: Conversations on Peace," an interreligious event that will kick off plans to build a joint campus that will be home to three houses of worship - a synagogue, a church and a mosque. The entire event will be webcast live and will be available for viewing for the next 30 days.
The Omaha Tri-Faith Initiative is a remarkable partnership between Temple Israel, The Episcopal Diocese of Nebraska and the American Institute of Islamic Studies and Culture, which plan to build a one-of-a-kind joint campus that will also house a shared facility on a large, common campus.
Tomorrow evening's event will feature three prominent religious leaders from each faith praying together and dialoguing about peace. Special guests are Rabbi Peter Knobel, immediate past president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, Dr. Ingrid Mattson, president of the Islamic Society of North America, and the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church; Mark Pelavin, Associate Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, will serve as moderator.
Check out what Nancy Kirk, Executive Director of the Tri-Faith Initiative, says of tomorrow's event:
Friday night was the only night in a nine-month period we could get these three speakers together without hitting someone's major holy days. So everyone committed to make it work without compromising their basic tenets.The event will be live streamed tomorrow evening from www.trifaith.org, where it will be available to watch for 30 days. Check it out, and don't forget to return to RACblog for Mark Pelavin's post-event recap!
At 5:30 we have a Worship Service, which is not the traditional interfaith service. First we have a full Shabbat service with all the elements, followed by an Episcopal Evening Prayer Service followed by the Muslim afternoon Salat-al-Asr (which is silent). Then we go into dinner, where the food will be blessed before the meal by two Jewish youths using Hebrew and English, two Episcopalian youths using a grace from the Book of Common Prayer, and two Muslim youths in Arabic and English.
The bread on the tables is challah, covered by hand-screened challah cloths made by local artists. The meal ends with Medjool dates, the food Mohammed used to break the fast of Ramadan. At 7:46 (about when dessert is served), there will be an Islamic call to prayer, and the Muslims will retire to the next room for Salat-al-Maghrib, which starts at 7:48 and takes 12 minutes. Once they return, the program will begin. The blessing after the meal is a Jewish prayer translated into English to be said at the tables by the participants.
There were some negotiated points, but we found ways to stay true to all the traditions. Islam does not allow accompanied voice in worship, so the Cantor is using a capella chants, but definitely within the tradition. The Episcopal musicians are using ancient chants and an a cappella hymn. Again - within the tradition. The Hospitality Committee had to come up with a menu that would work for those who follow Jewish and Muslim dietary rules, and it is a Friday in Lent. Episcopalians don't have a specific rule about no meat on Friday, but this is a very Catholic city and many Catholics are coming so we had to find a way to make it work for everybody.