For ten years, the Dubuque Children of Abraham organization has brought individuals together from various faith backgrounds to focus on what unites us no matter our religious beliefs. Through the organization’s events, Loras students find new ways to connect with each other and the community around them.
Dubuque’s Children of Abraham organization first came together in 2010 when Loras faculty members John Eby, Ph.D., professor of history, and John Waldmeir, professor of religion, gathered with individuals from different areas of the Dubuque community to create an atmosphere of civic life that builds inter-religious solidarity, cooperation, and friendship. The group hosted events to organize interfaith conversations to broaden the dialogue and learn from others.
“These events are getting more popular amongst the general student body, especially with the Interfaith leaders’ cohort, Tania Touseef, interfaith outreach coordinator, said. “Each event is also followed up by discussion panel where students freely exchange their opinions about the preceding event.”
Through roundtable conversations to book discussions, attendees are given a chance to understand religious traditions and connect in a respectful environment that uses dialogue instead of debate. For students, it is a new opportunity to learn more about the world around them and themselves.
“Regardless of initial motivations, virtually all students find Children of Abraham events stimulating and interesting and many return to other Children of Abraham events with no other strings attached,” Dr. Eby explained. “Students most often report how much they enjoy learning about Jewish or Muslim perspectives, and that they find the sense of community in Children of Abraham an inspiring glimpse of the Beloved Community we seek to inspire.”
Tauseef explained that, by meeting and interacting with community members of different faith backgrounds, students walk away from the Children of Abraham events with a richer understanding than they could from just a lecture.
“These conversations help students reflect critically on personal beliefs and values and develop an appreciative attitude towards different worldviews. They have an opportunity to get to know their community and learn interpersonal skills as they go on to become informed and active citizens in the world and discover in themselves abilities to interact with people of diverse religious and worldview background,” she said.
Dr. Eby agreed, adding, “Students get a sense of the power of story-telling in communicating and building connections with others. This helps them improve their communication skills and weave new threads into their own personal narratives. Additionally, and very importantly, students learn the value of ‘generous listening’ and get the opportunity to practice it in small groups. Generous listening is the practice of listening to hear and understand, rather than listening to respond; it involves adopting a generous attitude toward the other that holds them in honor and respect, assuming the best of intentions, gratitude for others’ vulnerability, and the humility to remember one’s shortcomings when noticing those of others.”
Of course, the organization is more than just a learning experience for students. Everyone is welcome to expand their understanding of other faith traditions and fellow community members.
“Being part of Children of Abraham has enriched my life immensely,” Stacia McDermott, director of spiritual life and peace & justice at Loras College, said. “Not only have I grown deeper in my own faith, but I have learned so much about Islam and Judaism and made life-long friendships with amazing people. This kind of work is exactly the type of peace-building needed in our society today.” You can learn more about the Children of Abraham on their website.