State Department Delegation

“Education is your passport to integration”, wise words shared during yesterday’s Interfaith Dialogue with the Muslim Belgium Delegation. It was a pleasure to share and learn about each others similarities and differences. Thank you to the Civilizations Exchange & Cooperation Foundation (CECF) for bringing such a well rounded, diverse delegation to learn about interfaith relations in Montgomery County!

Photos By: Chuck Lee

Security Partners Open House

The Faith Community Advisory Council hosted an Open House event on June 19 at the Public Safety Headquarters in Gaithersburg, MD for their partners in creating social cohesion and public safety. This event thanked all members of MCFRS, MCPD, OEMHS and DHHS for their participation and dedication over the years to empower and support faith communities of Montgomery County.

50th Anniversary of Rev. Mansfield “Kasey” Kaseman Ordination

Dear Colleagues and Friends,
I seek your indulgence as I reflect on the 50th anniversary of my ordination this Saturday. It was preceded by my organizing a Center for Theological Education in the Urban Setting that in turn helped organize the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s first initiative in the North. A picture of his speaking on the steps outside the locked doors of a deplorable intercity school remains in my office.
My theological studies included reading the sacred texts of major world religions, studying Hebrew scripture with rabbis and taking classes at Jesuit, Episcopal, Methodist, Baptist and United Church of Christ seminaries. My ordination service was interracial and included clergy from Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Protestant faith traditions. They participated in the rite of ordination by the “laying on of hands” as did a laywoman from an inner-city human service program because I wanted to celebrate the Holy Spirit moving through laity as well as clergy.
It was avant-gard at that time and unfortunately remains the same today. It seems natural to think our particular beliefs, approach to worship and claim to divine favor are more authentic than others. Some claim to being elected by God or being God’s chosen people at the exclusion of others. Under these circumstances there is no reason to associate with people of other faiths except to convert them to our superior faith tradition.
As the Interfaith Community Liaison, I have the privilege of worshipping in Eastern and Western faith traditions and becoming friends with a broad spectrum of people who are immeasurably enriching my life. What I and others are experiencing is that the more we cross lines of difference, the more we realize we are the same. Our histories and approaches to the divine are different, but as we worship and work together in service of others, we discover the divine in terms that overcome our differences.
I think this is why interfaith alliances among faith leaders are growing in Montgomery County, Interfaith Dialogues on Cultural Bias are being planned for a third year, some 60 interfaith communities are assimilating refugees, Muslims are inviting others to celebrate the breaking of their daily fasts at lifter dinners, faith leaders are inviting colleagues from other faiths to pray, teach and preach in their houses of worship.
The greatest benefit is discovering, that regardless of the name we attribute to the creator and sustain of life, we are sisters and brothers of one human family. The more we are together, the more we experience the unifying power of love dissolving our sense of superiority and leaving us humble and deeply grateful.
50 years ago I could not have imagined being an Interfaith Community Liaison in a place like Montgomery County. My brother, Martin Luther King, Jr., had convinced me of the universal power of love, but its context was largely ecumenical. Today it is profoundly interfaith. I cannot envision the next 50 years, but I’m optimistic thanks to my Zoroastrian, Buddhist, Hindu, Unitarian Universalist, Bahai’l, Muslim, Sikh, Jewish and Christians sisters and brothers.
Thank you
Rev. Mansfield “Kasey” Kaseman

Montgomery Serves Awards

On April 23, 2018 our Interfaith Community Liaison, Rev. Mansfield “Kasey” Kaseman had the pleasure of presenting the Roscoe R. Nix Distinguished Community Service Award to Mr. Tufail Ahmad at the Montgomery Serves Awards. Below is a statement from Rev. Kaseman.
“My friend, Tufail Ahmad, is not exactly like the heroic Robin Hood, because he takes from his own people. He takes their money, hundreds of thousands of dollars; he takes food by the ton, clothing by the car load and organizes volunteers to give it away. He doesn’t care about their faith or ethnicity or race. His only criteria is do they need it?

Tufail Ahmad is also like Roscoe Nix. Regardless of the abuse, prejudicial comments and actions directed at his community, he always greets you with a smile, and an outstretched hand.

You quickly recognize this man is bright, focused and organized. He does not waste a lunch or even a phone call without asking you for something he knows you can deliver.

You want to deliver it because Tufail has the heart and soul of a Muslim. He is a merciful, compassionate and charitable man living out the tenants and spirit of his faith.

Subsequently it’s natural for him to be working with kindred spirits in all faith traditions and no faith tradition creating a more welcoming, inclusive, resilient, just and peaceful Montgomery County.

We will learn more about this remarkable Montgomery County hero viewing this video.”

Summit of Muslim Leaders

The presentations of our County Executive, Isiah Leggett; Chief of Police, Tom Manger; Director of DHHS, Uma Ahluwalia; and Associate Superintendent for Elementary Education, Dr. LaVerne Kimball demonstrated their commitment to meeting the needs and interests of the Muslim community.

Comments and questions were very helpful in confirming what is working well and clarifying where more attention by our County officials needs to be placed now.  The FCAC can assure that the Muslim Advocacy Group will be following up on this Summit and its Chair, Lubna Ejaz, will be pleased to have your participation in strengthening the voice of the Muslim community.

Thank you to our hosting mosque and INMC Founding Member, the Muslim Community Center.

 

Top 10 Reasons for Attending the Launch of the INMC

We are extraordinarily privileged to be living in Montgomery County with a County Executive and County Council committed to making us the most welcoming county in America.  Beyond welcoming they want us to celebrate our unique identities and traditions while also becoming inclusive.
The faith community is uniquely positioned to move across lines of difference and recognize our essential identities as sisters and brothers of one human family.  Our Executive Committee for the County Executive’s Faith Community Advisory Council has been leading three working groups and several committees with remarkable success.  We have hosted delegates from 37 countries wanting to know how we are creating social cohesion and public safety.
Now a grant and public-private partnership with Interfaith Works makes it possible to launch the Interfaith Network of Montgomery County.  Here are 10 reasons to become part of it.

Top 10 Reasons for Attending the Launch of INMC

1.  Hear County Executive, Ike Leggett, address the importance of INMC.

2.  Hear Police Chief, Laura Lanham, speak about their partnerships of faith communities.

3.  Hear the President and CEO of HIAS, Mark Hetfield, address the unprecedented humanitarian    crisis migrants, refugees and immigrants face today.

4.  Hear the President of Healthcare Initiative Foundation, Crystal Townsend, address current healthcare and hunger needs in Montgomery County.

5.  Hear the Associate Superintendent, Jonathan Brice, address current challenges facing MCPS.

6.  Enjoy a video celebrating ways faith communities are crossing lines of difference.

7.  Meet leaders at the largest Resource Fair ever assembled for faith communities that will empower programs including security, social justice, religious land use and religious education.

8.  Broaden understanding and appreciation for the extraordinary diversity of Montgomery County.

9.  Enjoy a wonderfully diverse social setting with delicious refreshment, live music and a slideshow.

10. Experience the power of inclusion overcoming division, love overcoming fear, relationships overcoming prejudice and hope overcoming despair.

Click here for more information

Securing Houses of Worship Workshop

The Securing Houses of Worship Workshop was attended by over 70 faith leaders, ushers, office staff, building and grounds and worship committee members. Pictures include the Rev. Dr. Carol Flett, Co-Chair of the Faith Community Working Group who coordinated it, and presenters, Chief Luther Reynolds of MCPD; Sgt. Brian Tupa, Special Operations MCPD; Brian Johnson, Director of Security for Jewish Federation and JCRC; Capt. Don Mandeville, bomb Squad CommanderMCFRS; and James McCelland, Emergency Management Specialist, DEMHS. It was hosted by the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Rockville.

Interfaith Works Annual Congregation Meeting

Welcoming Our New Neighbors (WONN) was featured at the Annual Meeting of Interfaith Works (IW) because it illustrates the benefit of IW partnering with the County Executive’s Faith Community Advisory Council. WONN has over 50 faith communities engaged in welcoming and supporting refugee.

To date 12 families have been resettled in Montgomery County. An updated guide for families and faith communities was released and County Executive, Ike Leggett, representatives from Chevy Chase Presbyterian Church and the MoCo Muslim Foundation and others spoke to the importance of working across lines of difference in acknowledging our common humanity and serving one another.

Montgomery Unity Walk

In our confused, conflicted and violent culture, what could be better than crossing lines of difference, learning about different faith traditions and experiencing the love that lies at the heart of each of them?
The Montgomery Unity Walk received rave reviews. The only complaints in its evaluation were that more houses of worship were not engaged in it. In spite of weather reports predicting 80% chance of rain, hundreds of people came for the Resource Fair with 17 exhibitors in the Chinmaya Washington Regional Center.
The Chinmaya sanctuary was standing room only for the Opening Ceremony. It included an instrumental call to prayer, musical performance by the ADAMS BEAT (the first Mosque based choir in America), a message on unity by Swami Dheerananda and remarks by County Executive, Ike Leggett, and Council President, Roger Berliner.
Below is a statement by a Unity Walk participant;
 “I especially liked being able to go into different houses of worship, especially the Muslim Community Center and Buddhist Temple and learn about their prayers – so many similarities in all of these! We have to see the ONENESS IN ALL! I wish that more members of our community had participated. Thank you for this empowering and unifying event.”
On behalf of all present, the FCAC thanks all participating houses of worship, their volunteers, Fire and Rescue Services, Office of Community Partnerships and the Departments of Police, Recreation and Transportation for making it safe and enjoyable.