Super snowstorms. Subzero temperatures. Sad skies. The weather has been pretty depressing lately. Many people tried to find hope a few weeks ago when the famous groundhog, Phil, emerged from his safe haven to make his annual meteorological prediction. Others spent time finding hope through a little discussion and a lot of laughter at this month’s Children of Abraham program. The topic was “Humor” and featured speakers Dalia Abdel Rahim, Donnie Wood and Stacia McDermott. They represented the Islamic, Jewish and Christian perspectives on humor, respectively.
Nuns in habits, mothers in hijabs, men in yarmulkes—the room was full of diverse peoples seeking a common purpose: a harmonious community based on relationships of understanding and mutual respect. These dialogue-hungry people from all over the Dubuque braved the cold to listen to the speakers share jokes that touched their funny bones and discuss how to engage respectfully in humor across religions and cultures. They also touched on the common ground we can find as humans in our shared experiences of the hilarity of everyday life.
“I thought it was cool that all three religions felt very similarly about humor,” said first-year Caitlin Hansen. “All of the faith traditions were able to point to their own holy books and find references to humor.”
Blair Ernest, also a first year student, said that the event was “a great way to really get in touch with and better understand religious communities other than the one I’m most familiar with.”
The children present at the event even got involved by answering questions and offering stories of their own experiences with engaging in respectful humor. One young boy used a Spongebob episode to illustrate the lessons Spongebob learned about making respectful squirrel jokes to his friend, Sandy.
The mission of Children of Abraham is to create “an atmosphere in civic life that builds inter-religious solidarity, cooperation, and friendship. It does so through regular monthly topical conversations, service activities, educational outreach, the creative use of sacred space, and expressions of cross-cultural hospitality.” The world today, especially in light of recent events involving violence against Muslims, Jews and Christians needs programs like these more than ever.
If you’d like to join the conversation, mark your calendars for March 5, 2015 when internationally recognized Muslim comedian Azhar Usman will be visiting campus. The event will take place in the ACC Ballrooms at 7 p.m. Other upcoming Children of Abraham events can be found at cofabraham.org. Anyone interested in Loras’ own interfaith student organization, Better Together, can contact Emily.Nelson@loras.edu.