People Here at Home: Tri-Faith Initiative: "We can live together"

Published: May. 26, 2016 at 10:00 PM CDT
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Omaha is a place of many firsts and the Tri-Faith Initiative will be a big one. We've heard about the group building a church, mosque and synagogue right next to each other, but what about the people who will worship there? Some members are younger than you thought.

"I just think that we're more open and accepting than maybe some of the older people in the religion."

"In many ways, they represent an intuition that us older folks are striving to catch up to," said Minister Eric Elnes.

"Speak for yourself," laughed Rabbi Aryeh Azriel with Temple Israel.

Laughter is just one of the ways these faiths and these generations are coming together. While they raise funds to build three more buildings on their Omaha campus, they've been putting on a series of discussions at a local pub. They call it "More Than Just A Joke," using discussion and humor to enlighten each other.

"Just interacting, yeah, you just learn so much and you learn more about your religion and you learn about others," said Hipah Chughtai, a Muslim.

These younger members of the initiative say it's easy for them to talk and necessary in a time where people are still dying over conflicts of faith. They feel religious persecution is blasted across media and political speeches.

"It almost makes me feel bad as a Christian that other Christians are still persecuting people because of their religion," said Emma Creamer.

"It's really important that we notice these divisions in America and that we're not past them, but at the same time I kind of wish it could be in a different way, more positive kind of way," said Majdi Alkarute, a Muslim.

And that's what the Tri-Faith Initiative is already doing. The younger generation meets regularly to exchange ideas and find common connections and not just in faith. "The first thing I talk about is like what activities interest you?" said Benjamin Brodkey, who's Jewish. "Rather than like, we don't go straight into like hey, let's talk about religions in depth."

"The Tri-Faith Initiative is for them, so it's wonderful to hear that," said Syed Mohiuddin, a Muslim. "We can live together. We are a community."

The idea came about 10 years ago when these men first met, talking about relocating some of their buildings, when they realized why not just move everyone closer? "All good ideas start with God," said Rabbi Azriel. "It just took a little bit more time for us."

So this is just the beginning of not just a coming together of faiths, but of people. "This is where it starts," said Hipah. "Someone doesn't have to be a Muslim, someone doesn't have to be Christian or Jewish, they can walk in and they'll see acceptance and that just fosters it."

At this point, Temple Israel is open. They're raising funds for a church and moving dirt for the mosque to be built. A third building will be a community center for all faiths to share.