Different Faiths Build on Common Concerns

May 3, 2007

Author: Jane Lampman

Source: The Christian Science Monitor


After a quick buffet lunch, the Saturday afternoon crew in hard hats pauses for prayer, offered on this shift by Mike Hill, a Unitarian. The diverse group then heads off, hammers in hand, to their common task: framing a brand new Habitat for Humanity house for Ara Jane Halsey and her son, Nicholas.

This is the fifth year that the MultiFaith Council of Northwest Ohio has partnered with Habitat for a six-week home build. The spring project is a popular activity of the grass-roots lay organization, which brings together people from 16 different religious traditions.

"When you urge people to get on board with interfaith work, that's the piece that really grabs them," says Judy Trautman, cochair of the council. "You start working together on a common cause, and it's fun!"

For Ms. Trautman and her husband, Woody, the spark plugs behind the council, it's about building relationships among Toledo area residents who might otherwise never know or come to appreciate one another. As America grows more religiously diverse, faith groups tend to build close-knit communities complete unto themselves, Mr. Trautman says. With religion a flash point today and misperceptions often holding sway, that "doesn't bode well for the country's future."

A city built around manufacturing, Toledo has many ethnic groups. "It's a little Chicago in terms of diversity," Judy says. Since 9/11, more people are recognizing the need for greater interaction and understanding.

See also: Interfaith, Civic