Encountering Other Faiths Participant
Ahmadiyya Muslim Community
“I met Sr. Maria Hornung of the Interfaith Center when I began preparing for an ‘Compassionate Listening trip’ to Israel that she would be on as well. After one of our preparation meetings, Sr. Maria invited me to co-facilitate an Interfaith Dialogue group with men in recovery who reside at New Jerusalem Now community in North Philadelphia. I said yes.
“Sister Maria, a white, Catholic woman and I, a Black Muslim man, arrived together at our first meeting at the New Jerusalem House for our first of seven sessions. Waiting for us were 15 Black, White and Latino men—all either Christian or Muslim—with their arms crossed over their chests, faces blank or maybe even resentful. Clearly, many did not want to be there. The session did not end well. I was discouraged, ‘I didn’t reach them.’
“I came back, not because they wanted me to come back – I came back for me and for them. They opened up a bit. We listened.
“At the third session, the numbers were up a bit. At this session I asked Sister Maria to leave me alone with the group. In her absence, I began to tell them some of my own story. They were amazed that I shared some of their own struggles, and that I was able to overcome my struggles with the help of my faith, Islam. After each session Sister Maria and I would go over the strengths and weaknesses of our gathering; we always agreed that we too were learning some very important lessons about ourselves. For me, it was the importance of patience. Things happen over time, and a one-shot deal is not enough.
“All in all, through these positive interfaith encounters, I achieved a greater sense of how to help people by broadening their experiences and helping them learn how to create more opportunities for themselves.”