By Lauren Reisig, JWI Intern
When it comes to religion, people often focus on their polarizing differences: Different beliefs, different cultures, and different values. “But why do people love to focus on the differences when there are so many similarities?” asked Yasmin Hussein, the Young Leaders Program Coordinator for the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC).
The question was likely rhetorical, but there was a tangible pause in the JWI conference room yesterday as the group of Muslim and Jewish interns gathered there glanced at one another, perhaps hoping to glean an answer to this ubiquitous question.
There wasn’t one.
Here we were, sitting side-by-side in a conference room engaging in a discussion on how Muslim and Jewish organizations can work together on a common cause, yet still unable to pinpoint the fundamental issues surrounding the complexity of interfaith discussions. The key, JWI and MPAC leaders explained, is to downplay the differences and enter discussions with an air of respect and the knowledge that it’s okay not to agree on, or even discuss, many issues. Instead, focus on the issues with common ground; in this case, the issue of domestic violence.
Domestic violence was once regarded as a women’s issue, but is now a “core issue of the interfaith community,” explains Miri Cypers, JWI Senior Policy and Advocacy Specialist. “Faith is seen as a resource,” added Deborah Rosenbloom, Director of Programs at JWI. One in five women goes to her faith leader first after an incident involving domestic violence. The faith community, therefore, plays an integral role in domestic violence response, and working together, the interfaith community is crucial to advocacy, as well.
MPAC’s Young Leaders Program came to JWI though the Interfaith Domestic Violence Coalition (IDVC), which JWI convenes and MPAC is a member of. Launched in 2008, the IDVC is composed of representatives from the Jewish, Muslim, Bahá’í, United Methodist, Catholic, Evangelical, Presbyterian, United Church of Christ, Latter-day Saints, Seventh-Day Adventist and Unitarian Universalist communities. Together these different religious groups support a coordinated nationwide effort to advocate for domestic violence prevention in Congress and improve domestic violence resources in their respective communities.
The coalition is an important reminder that despite inherently different religious beliefs, when it comes to the common cause of domestic violence, there is no divisiveness. Not among Muslims and Jews, nor Unitarian Universalists and Catholics.
Domestic violence does not discriminate by race or ethnicity, and certainly not by religion.