At Interfaith Gathering, Director Gives Update On Obama Faith/Neighborhood Initiatives

May 22, 2009

Author: Staff Writer


So a Shia Muslim, a Sunni Muslim and an Orthodox pastor are standing in a Presbyterian Church ...

It sounds like the start of a joke, but the three men were simply waiting to hear Joshua DuBois speak. DuBois is the executive director for President Obama's White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. He was in town to be interviewed Wednesday evening on Minnesota Public Radio's (MPR's) Speaking of Faith. Prior to the event, the Minnesota Council of Churches and the St. Paul Foundation held a reception for DuBois at St. Paul's Central Presbyterian Church (just uphill from MPR) to introduce him to some of the state's top faith-community leaders.

During the reception, Sheikh Odeh Muhawesh, Imam of Imam Hussain Islamic Center in Brooklyn Center; the Rev. Fr. Marc Boulos, pastor at St. Elizabeth's Orthodox Mission in Eagan; and Imam Asad Zaman of the Muslim American Society of Minnesota were talking about the importance of not side-stepping difficult religious issues. "That is where the learning is," Boulos said.

But Muhawesh said he wished someone would do a report comparing the beliefs of religious traditions. If they could write a 10-volumne set listing all their beliefs, "nine volumes would be things we agreed on," he said.

There was talk about extending the conversation another day. Boulos suggested meeting at the Holy Land Deli.

The roughly 50 attendees included representatives of the United Church of Christ, the Salvation Army, the Jewish Community Relations Council, Shiloh Temple International Ministries and others. It is the kind of interfaith dialogue the Obama administration seems to want to generate.