TEXAS – An Irving Muslim imam, a Southern Dallas preacher, and a Dallas rabbi are offering a new hope for a more tolerant community, using their friendship as a catalyst for change.
“Too often we talk at each other. We’re teaching how to talk to each other about these issues,” Imam Omar Suleiman, a renowned Irving imam, told NBC 5.
Along with Rev. Michael W. Waters, Rabbi Nancy Kasten, Suleiman co-chairs Faith Forward Dallas.
The group is is a newly formed network through The Thanks-Giving Foundation of diverse clergy, and they hope the model they’ve developed can be shared in communities across North Texas and the country.
“Sometimes in our community here, people of faith feel embolden to say things that are not unifying and are divisive,” Kasten said.
“We want people to know this faith organization is standing up for those who want to create a city of compassion and a city of understanding.”
The three friends decided to change misperception by teaching their faithful how to embrace those of every religion.
It started with the three looking past what may divide people of their own Christian, Jewish and Islamic faiths and simply become friends.
“We did not want to give lip service to unity and collective action, but to make sure we’re united together and know one another,” Waters said.
“We worship with one another and our congregations are able to dine with one another. [We’re] able to form authentic relationships and able to model what those look like in broader society.”
“The clear closeness – the brother and sisterhood we’re forming amongst ourselves – those genuine relationships truly transform spaces that we’ve been in,” Suleiman said.
Over the past weeks, the three preachers showed up, drowning out hate against Muslims in one incident, and swelling over police shootings of unarmed black men in another.
“Our role was to show the world that even during great darkness a light can appear. We could either move toward chaos or we could strengthen one another and move toward community,” Waters said.
Faith Forward hopes to turn those moments of crisis into a catalyst for conversation inside North Texas churches, synagogues, mosques and temples.
The United Nations Association recently recognized the group’s work in preaching a message of inclusion and acceptance in the days following the July 7 police shooting.
“Dr. King said we have to learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools, and I think our commitment is living together as brothers and sisters to rebuild and restore and strengthen our communities,” Waters said.
“We’re working at it. We have a ways to go, but we’re committed to the work.”