Turn on the television and take a look at the religious strife in the Middle East, and it’s very easy to conclude that Christians, Jews and Muslims will never be able to peacefully co-exist. Many believe this inability stems from fundamental differences that can never be reconciled; however, there are a few enlightened souls who believe it may simply be from a lack of understanding of the basic principles and beliefs that form the foundation of each religion, and the lack of willingness to want to get to know and learn more about these other religious faiths.
One group of women who believe that people of different faiths can get along are the women of WISDOM (Women’s Interfaith Solutions for Dialogue and Outreach in Detroit Metro), which was founded in 2006 after the four founders met at an interfaith project sponsored in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Before WISDOM was born, however, these remarkable women – Gail Katz from Congregation Beth Shalom in Oak Park, Shahina Begg of the Unity Center Mosque, Peggy Kalis of the Unity Church in Farmington Hills, and Trish Harris of St. Hugo of the Hills in Bloomfield Hills, spent the day volunteering on behalf of Habitat for Humanity, and along with 55 other women of differing faiths helped to restore two homes in the Detroit area.
After the days’ work ended all the women assembled in a nearby park to talk about the day’s events and share their personal information with one another. As the women ended the gathering in a silent prayer for peace in the Middle East, the sun broke through the clouds for the first time that day, as if God was sending His divine blessing for their efforts. The women of WISDOM credit this spiritual moment with the launching of their organization. In a time when Metro Detroit communities of faith were becoming more and more segregated from one another, Gail, Peggy, Shahina and Trish felt it was important to connect spiritually with women of other faiths and to make an effort to listen to one another, respect each other’s differences, and take action towards change. Together these four women have shown that it’s possible for people of differing faiths to not only get along, but to work together to make a difference.
The WISDOM Philosophy:
We at WISDOM hope to establish venues for community service projects to help “repair the world,” while having the chance to dialogue with women of different faiths whom we don’t usually meet in our sheltered circle of friends and family. We also hope to arrange educational opportunities at our diverse places of worship to learn about each other’s religions with an empathy and spiritual energy that will strengthen friendships. We invite you to join our journeys towards celebrating Detroit’s religious diversity.
WISDOM has wonderful events for women, families and the community. They also sponsor a program called Five Women Five Journeys: How Different Are We? By sharing personal stories of childhood and upbringing in five different religious faiths, the audience comes to understand and appreciate the richness of differing heritages.
What brought these women together has grown so much bigger than the Detroit Metro area, and is a role model for communities around the world. I have attended numerous WISDOM events and am always inspired by how an idea nurtured alters lives and ideas. Women of WISDOM you epitomize the art of making a difference. Thank you!
In addition the women have created a book called Friendship and Faith: The WISDOM of Women Creating Alliances for Peace and, is available on Amazon. To learn more visit Women’s Interfaith Solutions for Dialogue and Outreach in Detroit Metro WISDOM website.