YOUNGSVILLE - An event Saturday in Youngsville will aim to bridge the gap between religious denominations.
Christians, Muslims, Jews and even followers of Baha'i claim Abraham as a spiritual, and in most cases literal, patriarch told by their God that his descendants would spread across the world. The Hebrew name Abraham can be translated as "father of multitudes."
Despite this, centuries of persecution and warfare have been rationalized by the differences in other beliefs these groups hold.
Timothy Dyer is shown above at St. Francis Of Assisi Episcopal Church in Youngsville, Pa. Dyer has organized the Children of Abraham Project. A lecture and question-and-answer session will be given from 4 to 6 p.m. on Saturday by Sam Qadri, public relations director for the Jamestown Islamic Society and JCC?professor.
From 4 to 6 p.m. Saturday at the St. Francis of Assisi Church in Youngsville, Children of Abraham Project will host a lecture and question and answer session by Sam Qadri, Jamestown Islamic Society public relations director. Qadri is also a Jamestown High School and Jamestown Community College professor.
Timothy Dyer, a parishioner at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Youngsville and postulant for holy orders, said he hopes to help enlighten the public on the similarities and differences of those beliefs, confront some of the stereotypes about their followers and eliminate some prejudices in the process. Dyer said he first started thinking about organizing an interfaith event nearly a year ago while examining the words of his church's baptismal covenant. One line in the covenant, which includes a number of vows to be made by those seeking to be baptized, "really struck home," Dyer said: "Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?"
After much thought and much prayer, Dyer said he decided to organize The Children of Abraham Project. Dyer says the project is an attempt to live up to his vow by "responding to injustices that I see in our society, but, more importantly, in our own communities."
Dyer first went to his priest, Father Matt MacDougall, to discuss his desire to address the issue. Dyer then arranged for a meeting between MacDougall, Qadri and himself to focus on ways they could work together to address the injustices he saw. The group invited Father Matthew Scott of Trinity Memorial Church in Warren to meet with them and discuss the matter. They ultimately settled on Saturday's event.
"As ideas were exposed and plans were formulated," Dyer said. "It was clear that each of us felt that this interfaith project would be of great benefit to our community."
Dyer said he hopes to continue and expand The Children of Abraham Project after the initial event.
"Eventually I hope to develop this into a true reflection of the children of Abraham by inviting the Jewish community to participate, with my ultimate goal being the hope of fostering new and deeper friendships with our Muslim and Jewish neighbors," Dyer said. "There are several ideas in the works for future events, but finding peace among and within our communities cannot be successful without each of us working together to defeat hatred, injustice and the stereotypical images that permeate our communities."
He said one idea he hopes to see become a reality is to bring young people of these various faiths together.
"Too many people are under-educated in regard to those of the muslim faith," MacDougall said. "I don't see this as an event for those who have no concern, fear or skepticism... Rather, it's an opportunity for those of us who do."
MacDougall noted he hopes the event will help to dispel some commonly held misconceptions about followers of Islam in America.
"More than anything I'm hoping to create a more informed community," MacDougall said. "I've had the privilege of being invited to observe a Muslim prayer service on two separate occasions; once in college... and once in seminary... After my visit during college, my classmates and I were invited to meet with the Imam. He was not cold, nor did he or any member of his community appear to mirror the persona of those being portrayed in the news; that there are enough Muslim berserkers out there seeking to kill as many Americans as possible, that American citizens should live in fear and skepticism."
A potluck dinner will follow the lecture and question and answer session. The dinner will feature halal food prepared by members of the Jamestown Islamic Society. Dyer asks those who attend to bring a dish for the dinner.
Due to limited space, those who want to attend the event should contact Dyer to RSVP. He also invites people with questions about the event to contact him. Dyer can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 814-779-0869.