Trio builds bonds across faiths

A rabbi, imam and pastor known as the Interfaith Amigos will speak in the city this Sunday.

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WALLA WALLA -- As millions of people reflect on a day of infamy that shocked the world 10 years ago, a rabbi, an imam and a pastor better known as the Interfaith Amigos will also reflect on a decade of working together to break down the walls that have formed since 9/11.

"Mainly hope. Hope for a future that is far more peaceful and compassionate and loving," Rabbi Ted Falcon said, when asked what people might hear this Sunday as the Interfaith Amigos, all of whom are from Seattle, take part in two public speaking engagements in Walla Walla.

Imam Jamal Rahman added that along with their message of hope will come a reading assignment for their audience.

"It is not good enough to be open minded ... but to have an appreciative understanding of the other person's literacy," Rahman said.

He warned that trying to understand seventh-century Muslim holy writings is difficult.

"I frankly tell people not to rush out and by a copy of the Quran; it is almost overwhelming," Rahman said. He recommends people read a commentary on the Quran first.

It was soon after 9/11 the trio felt the need to work together.

All three had known each other, all three had long been supporters of the interfaith movement, and all three would see their work change.

"A lot of angry questions," Rahman said of the early days when the Interfaith Amigos first started giving presentations.

"It shifted in that there was anger, there was frustration, there were a lot of questions about jihad and violence directed at me ... now I am touched by the community and the great focus about knowing more about Islam," he said.

The Interfaith Amigos would see other positive changes over the last decade.

Perhaps more reliance on humor, definitely more focus on the heart of one anothers' holy verses, and even the addition of a song that all three sing together in Hebrew, Arabic and English.

As for the vernacular and the world of political correctness, even words that were once tolerated and venerated by academia would not be tolerated by the Interfaith Amigos.

"Tolerance doesn't go beyond separation," Falcon said.

In fact, when the Interfaith Amigos reviewed Whitman College's promotional material, they asked that the word tolerance be removed from the text.

"It (the word tolerance) may not include physical violence, but it is kind of leaving people alone, which is not why we are here. If tolerance is where it stops, we have missed trying to understand another person's life," Falcon said.

Over the years, the Interfaith Amigos have toured nationally and given presentations predominantly at religious meeting areas or colleges.

The three also do a number of radio shows, and they are working on their second collaborative book.

Rahman still serves as a Muslim cleric, while Falcon and Don Mackenzie, a pastor, have since retired.

All three have noted that their Interfaith Amigos work has kept them very busy, as they break down the walls and replace them with something better.

"When we first started, we shared an intuition of the penetration of the walls, that this could lead to something good," Mackenzie said.

"What we didn't really expect was that as we broke down those walls, we would become friends. And as we became friends, we would need -- as friends do -- to try to understand what it feels like to be the other."

Alfred Diaz can be reached at alfreddiaz@wwub.com or 526-8325.



If You Go

On Sunday, the Interfaith Amigos will be at First Congregational Church of Walla Walla, 73 S. Palouse St., 10 a.m., and Whitman College's Maxey Hall at 3 p.m.

Both presentations are free and open to the public.

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