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Monthly Archives: August 2011
From diverse traditions, unified in a common goal
Downtown Congregations to End Homelessness is a true interfaith effort
By Heidi Johnson McAllister
Gathered on a sweltering July afternoon in the basement of a mosque, the Steering Committee of the Downtown Congregations to End Homelessness discussed our common purpose of seeking and working together toward a society where all people have access to affordable, safe, and decent housing. For three years, we have been working side by side in this effort. But why are we being called to end homelessness? We gathered to ask that question and to better understand why we are working actively in this community to create a healthy society.
Four panelists—Rabbi Sim Glaser from Temple Israel, Imam Makram El-Amin from Masjid
An-Nur, the Rev. Doug Mitchell from Westminster Presbyterian, and the Rev. Meg Riley,
representing Unitarian Universalist congregations—spoke from their own traditions about the history of working to alleviate poverty and oppression. Story after story from sacred literature of each of the four traditions illustrated that, at the heart of the tradition, is the beautiful instruction to care for the sick, the poor, and those suffering in society. With each panelist, the differences between the traditions were illuminated in stories, theology, and texts, but the underlying values of the Golden Rule were present in each.
Rabbi Glaser shared the example of story of the Exodus of the Israelites in the Torah, escaping from oppression by the Egyptians. This story allows people of Jewish faith to understand what Rabbi Hillel the Elder once said, “What is hateful to you, don’t allow it to happen to others.”
Similarly, in the New Testament, Jesus says “do unto others as you would have them do onto you.” In the Christian tradition, Jesus embodied this as he ate with sinners and outcasts, but Christians can also turn to the Old Testament and find many stories, including Jeremiah 29, which is about the welfare of the city and how it’s prosperity impacts everyone’s prosperity.
The Prophet Muhammad explicitly stated “To love for your brother or sister what you love for yourself.” But, it is implicitly stated in the Qu’ran, “O you who believe! Spend [benevolently] of the good things that you have earned… and do not even think of spending [in alms] worthless things that you yourselves would be reluctant to accept,” (Qur’an Surah 2). The traditions of Islam, especially Ramadan, reminds Muslims to live by the Golden Rule daily. The Unitarian Universalists Association of Congregations has a guiding set of principles that instructs members in becoming good citizens of the world, including the inherent worth and dignity of every person; and justice, equity and compassion in human relations.
As the conversation evolved, the energy in the room continued to build and allowed the group to delve deeper into the meaning of our collaboration and mutual commitment to the Golden Rule. It became clear in new ways that our diverse traditions all mandated a unified goal: to work for the marginalized in society. It was amazing to understand one another deeper in this way.
This movement to end homelessness in our city comes forth from the core of our traditions and calls us to action: to be work with our brothers and sisters of all religions to ensure our fellow human beings have dignity and worth and to create a healthy, thriving society. This is where our hope is! This is how we progress together! It is certainly divinely inspired!
Heidi Johnson McAllister is the congregational organizer
for Downtown Congregations to End Homelessness (DCEH)
Only 16 years ago, Rick’s Café sat on the site where Masjid An-Nur not sits. After continuous renovation, Masjid An-Nur is well established in North Minneapolis and is an ever-growing faith community. Out of the core of Islam is the call and mandate to help neighbors in need; therefore, Masjid An-Nur has been quick to respond to the needs in the North Minneapolis community. Masjid An-Nur has created the social service agency Al-Maa’uun, meaning neighborly needs.
With the many services provided to community members who come to their door for help, the generosity and kindness demonstrates the importance of helping one another that comes out of the Muslim faith. In 1997, Masjid An-Nur opened a food shelf as they recognized the need for families and individuals to have access to food. The first distribution served 27 families. Since the year 2000, they have distributed 950,000 lbs of food to 47,000 men, women and children. For the past 12 years, Masjid An-Nur’s food distribution has been administered by an all-volunteer staff. The Monthly Food Shelf Distribution occurs every 3rd Saturday of each month from 8:00am to 9:30 am and is first-come, first-served. By December 2008, 150+ families were being served each month in the food shelf. Masjid An-Nur decided to begin provide hot meals to anyone in the community needing a meal. Having the meal 4 to 6 times annually has morphed into a meal every Saturday from 3:00-5:00pm.
Masjid An-Nur began to notice that students who ate at school during the school year were not getting nutritious, regular meals during the summer, so a balanced breakfast and lunch program was created in connection with the Minneapolis Public School sysem. Masjid An-Nur serves a balanced breakfast and lunch for children from ages 1 to 18. Breakfast is serves from 8:30 to 9:30 am and lunch is served from 11:30 am to 1:00 pm.
With the recent tornado in North Minneapolis, Masjid An-Nur also responded quickly to situations of people needing food and household or hygine items. With the help of many restaurants, Masjid An-Nur was able to serve over 3,000 meals for people who have experienced electrical outage, homelessness, or other situations.
To celebrate the creation of their services into the Al-Maa’uun service center, Masjid An-Nur will host a grand opening outside their doors. On October 1st, The Day of Dignity will bring services, activities, musicians, a meal, and more together. This Day of Dignity will be a community event for all of the twin cities region. Mark your calendars and come out for the day!
With many needs in the community for food and safe space, the people at Masjid An-Nur has responded out of their Muslim faith to the needs of the people around them with food and basic necessities. Growing stronger as a community, Masjid An-Nur is spinning off their services into Al-Maa’unn as they continually expand to meet the neighborly needs of the community, especially during recovery of the North Minneapolis tornado!