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Published: Saturday, 8/16/2014 - Updated: 2 months ago

Detroit hosts 25th annual interfaith conference

BY TK BARGER
BLADE RELIGION EDITOR
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DETROIT — There was small but significant representation from Toledo at the “Connect Conference” of the North American Interfaith Network Sunday through Wednesday in Detroit. The convention, the organization's 25th since its incorporation in 1988, emphasizes ways to work together through interfaith connections.

Judy Lee Trautman, NAIN‘‍s communications coordinator, brought word of Toledo's compassionate connections, speaking in a workshop about the compassionate city movement and the upcoming global Compassion Games. Greater Toledo was formally recognized as a compassionate community by the Compassionate Action Network International April 25 when local government officials signed the Charter for Compassion, developed by author Karen Armstrong and the TED Talks organization.

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Mrs. Trautman's husband and cochairman, with her, of the MultiFaith Council of Northwest Ohio, Woody Trautman, was an attendee, as was Joseph Zielinski, vice chairman of the MultiFaith Council's board.

Jeanine Diller of Ann Arbor, a professor of philosophy and religion at the University of Toledo and director of the university's Center for Religious Understanding, also took part in the conference, serving as chairman of the conference‘‍s young adult committee. She accompanied two former center interns. One, David Harris, presented with her at a breakfast Wednesday illustrating the Better Together initiative of the Interfaith Youth Core national organization; they spoke about community service projects the center is engaged with at Chase Academy. Ms. Diller introduced the other former intern, Ibtissam Gad, at the conference‘‍s closing ceremony. Ms. Gad spoke about organizations encouraging young adult participation in the interfaith movement by providing for inspiration, opportunity, and fun. As an example, she used the April 9 center activity Holi Toledo, when people at the university took learned about and took part in an Indian holiday ritual tied to the seasonal Hindu celebration called Holi, throwing colors on one another in playful celebration.

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The conference organizers made use of Detroit's resources and experiences, such as by offering a workshop featuring the mayors of Dearborn, Hamtramck, and Warren on rebuilding their once-segregated communities, holding a session with members of Detroit's Religious Leaders Forum on their working together; and giving other presentations on Detroit's interfaith work.

“We really can show that the base of people that participated in interfatih activites now is much greater, and we've had some provocations” in metro Detroit, including by anti-Islam demonstrators, Robert Bruttell, chairman of the Interfaith Leaders Council of Metropolitan Detroit, the hosting organization, said. When threats to religious harmony arose, “We were already organized; we were organized high and low, both at the grassroots and the hierarchical top, so we were able to do something that we would never have been able to do here before, by bringing all those religious leaders together all at once and to bring so many of the faithful together at the same time.”

The interfaith network came to Detroit for its convention, said NAIN's chairman, the Rev. Robert Hankinson of Edmonton, Alberta, in response to “an invitation three years in the making” from the council that Mr. Bruttell heads. Rev. Hankinson said, “I think being here at this time is very significant given the realities of Detorit rebuilding itself. If the interfatih community can assist in any way, that's what we're here for.”

The Connect Conference was the closest it had been to Toledo since 2003 when the organization met in Columbus. The 2013 conference was in Toronto, and in 2015 NAIN will meet in Regina, Saskatchewan. Total attendance in Detroit was 155 people, from 46 religious affiliations and 26 states and Canadian provinces.

The northwest Ohio multifaith council's annual picnic is Sunday from 3 to 7 p.m. at New Harvest Christian Church, 3540 Seaman Rd., Oregon. The theme is “Get to Know Your Neighbors,” all are invited, and RSVPs are requested at multifaithcouncilpicnic@gmail.com.

The compassionate atmosphere will continue in Toledo Sept. 11-21 when the community participates in the global Compassion Games, a friendly competition—called a “coopetition” where people “coopetete,” a blending of words for cooperation and competition spoken by Sande Hart, the international head coach of the games, who presented the workshop on compassionate community building with Mrs. Trautman. The Rev. Jim Lee, senior minister of Renaissance Unity in Warren, Mich., was scheduled to present with Ms. Hart and Mrs. Trautman, but he was stranded in the Detroit area by the flash flooding and could not get to Wayne State University's campus, where the conference took place.

The Compassion Games, with the slogan “Survival of the Kindest,” are oriented around acts of goodwill and a points system. The first competition, in 2012, ended in a draw, and in 2013 the format was made global. They are inspired in part by a Native American potlatch gift-giving festival.

Contact TK Barger @ tkbarger@theblade.com, 419-724-6278 or on Twitter @TK_Barger.



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