Dubuque Diversity: Interfaith

DUBUQUE– Sara Alfayoumi wakes up every morning, looks to the Qibla, and prays… but until two months ago, she never imagined she would be conducting her daily Islamic prayers in Iowa. Sara had only ever visited the United States when she was forced to leave Syria after her brother was kidnapped.

Now a Dubuque resident, being a practicing Muslim in a primarily Christian community was a difficult transition. “It’s not easy,” Alfayoumi elaborates, “It’s kind of confusing for some people, but some other people, who know more about Islam, understand what I’m saying.”

Local interfaith organizations allowed Sara, and many others, the opportunity to have a conversation in an accepting environment. Interfaith organizations, such as the Children of Abraham, and weekly Bible and Qur’an studies, provide outlets to learn about other religions.

“People will open up, and we will be happy to learn from you, and respect you, and teach you more,” explains Adib Kassas. Children of Abraham Director John Eby adds,
“Beyond that, it’s also about building relationships with people that we wouldn’t normally come into contact with.”

With Muslim, Jew, Christian, and Agnostic speakers and participants, conversations quickly reveal differences among religious traditions… but those involved welcome those differences, Kassas comments:
“God created differences in people because he wanted people to learn from each other.”

Differences allow for participants to gain a greater understanding of other religions, but also of themselves. Eby details,
“All of us would say we’ve grown more deeply, and more confidently, in our own tradition, not only through the similarities we experience with other traditions, but also through the differences.”

The conversations within the interfaith organizations have made an impact on both the people involved and the community beyond. Alfayoumi states,
“Being around people in Children of Abraham is really relieving because I know they understand my religion.”
It’s an understanding that is changing this community…Kassas concludes,
“You really can make a difference. And I see that in Dubuque and I’m very amazed.”

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