BLOG: “Education to Action” – Catholics and Muslims Working Together for Positive Change by Dr. Sarah Sayeed and Tom Dobbins Jr.
“Education to Action”
Catholics and Muslims Working Together for Positive Change
Dr. Sarah Sayeed,
Senior Advisor, NYC Mayor’s Office Community Affairs Unit
[Note: Dr. Sayeed’s contribution to this blog is based on her
previous work as ICNY’s Director of Community Partnerships]
Tom Dobbins, Jr.,
Justice and Peace Coordinator/ Producer:
JustLove Radio – Sirius/XM Catholic Channel,
Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York
From Sarah Sayeed:
In 2010, ICNY began its Catholic-Muslim Joint Action Initiative, a pioneering, large-scale and sustained interfaith collaboration among Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York, Catholic and Muslim social service organizations, and Catholic and Muslim congregations in New York City. The goal was to bring social service providers of each faith together to address commonly shared concerns within a given geographic area. The program, funded by a generous grant from the GHR Foundation, sought to bridge the gap between “education” and “action,” bringing people into dialogue about their shared religious commitment to justice and translating that commitment into action to assist neighbors in need.
Over five years, ICNY’s Catholic-Muslim Joint Action Initiative brokered relationships among faith-based social service organizations and congregations – relationships that, in turn, germinated several small-scale interfaith community service and development projects. The Initiative started in three boroughs and, in the fourth year, scaled up to a citywide partnership.
The partnership had several key accomplishments and offers “how-to” guidance for anyone interested in replicating interfaith joint action (see our guide below). It strengthened relationships between Catholics and Muslims in a City where communities often live in isolation referred to as “silos”. Partners enjoyed learning about each other’s faith traditions and saw their work as an alternative approach that brought people together and diminish religious strife. The partnership brought together not only individuals but also institutions. Muslim organizations and mosques had the opportunity to learn from their Catholic counterparts, and Catholic organizations learned about culturally responsive services to Muslim communities.
Lessons learned include the importance of working from the ground up and letting communities lead on defining partnership goals and strategies, and working collaboratively to ensure continuity when unexpected changes impacted the partnership.
From Tom Dobbins:
In using social services as a mechanism for interfaith collaboration it became clear to participants just how many similarities there were between the two faiths – particularly in the areas of service provision to the poor. Providing concrete services and improving people’s lives infused the interfaith collaboration – a laudable goal in its own right – with deeper meaning in the long run, and the time spent together in meetings and activities allowed participants to learn about the teachings, cultures, and worldview of religions other than their own in a setting that emphasized working together towards shared objectives, and established a safe and mutually acceptable starting point for future dialogue and collaboration.
In a time when many are seemingly more preoccupied with building “walls” as opposed to “bridges”; ICNY’s Catholic-Muslim Joint Action Initiative – and particularly its new guide: “How to Move from Dialogue to Action: Interfaith Social Action Partnerships” – offers a unique blueprint for those seeking to engage diverse communities of believers in the important work of meeting basic human needs while simultaneously building social solidarity. Through engaging the “hands” of diverse believers in relieving the suffering of their neighbors, interfaith social action can ignite the “hearts” of participants to more deeply embrace our shared humanity, encouraging their “heads” to think thoughts, speak words and undertake actions that promote peace in a world that so desperately needs it!
Click the Image Below to Access the How To Guide