IP’s newest President of the Board of Directors, Imam Muhamed Hasic, and the Rev. Earl Strauther from the Clergy Coalition met with four religious leaders from the Republic of Kazakhstan on March 8, 2013. The meeting was held at the Islamic Community Center and Mosque in South City where Imam Hasic’s Bosnian Muslims worship. They later travelled to Grbcic, a Bosnian restaurant a few minutes away for decadent desserts. The meeting was conducted and coordinated by IP Board Member Mary Pedersen, and the World Affairs Council’s International Visitor’s Program Director, Jessica Bellomo.
A Lutheran Bishop, Islamic Imam, Evangelical Pastor and the Director of Religious Issues Information Center came to St. Louis to learn and glean from the interfaith alliances that have flourished in our St. Louis Region for over 27 years. Many questions about Interfaith Partnership, the Clergy Coalition and The Living Insights Center were answered with the help of Russian translators.
Bishop Novgorodov noted that “In Kazakhstan, we do not know how to pull everyone together for dialogue. The religious leaders cannot set aside theology and dogma. All problems are caused by silence. We want to learn how to talk.” The whole meeting was designed to exchange ideas on how our local interfaith organizations were created, and how our goals and missions are fulfilled and funded. Rev. Strauther, an African-American Methodist Episcopal Pastor encouraged his new international friends by stating that “we have common concerns of family life, poverty and many other social issues that allow us to work together. Imam Hasic added, “We joke together, are friends and have mutual respect for one another.”
The Department of State outlined the professional development objectives for this and other meetings during their stay in our country. The four international guests learned the historic origins of how religious freedom became part of America’s public consciousness, explored religious diversity of the United States, examined ways religious tolerance is promoted and inter-faith dialogue is fostered and managed, and met with religious leaders and institutions that help maintain religious freedom. Interfaith Partnership is grateful that they were chosen as one of those institutions to learn from.
Please continue to join us in fulfilling our mission: “As communities of faith, we agree to differ, promise to love, and unite to serve.”