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Review for Salaam Network Inc, Louisville, KY, USA

Rating: 5 stars  

December 10, 2019
Lane Stumler

I discovered The Salaam Network (TSN) in May 2017 at a presentation at St. Andrew United Church of Christ. This interfaith panel was on “Inheriting Abraham: One Ancestral Family: Three Faiths: An exploration of the legacy of Abrahamic tradition in Judaism, Christianity and Islam.” TSN promotes understanding of the true teachings of the three Abrahamic religions whose basic tenets are Love and Compassion. From its presentations I have also learned about pervasive myths and misunderstandings, religion versus culture and mis-taught history.

Due to TSN’s programs, commonalities and accord between the three great monotheistic religions are now so apparent to me. I find it astounding that this is not common knowledge. It seems that our modern society only looks for differences to turn into divisions. Since 2017, I have attended every TSN presentation that I could. I have been especially impressed by the presentations on women’s rights and LGBTQ issues.

I was greatly inspired by the education I was receiving from TSN’s presentations, and most impressed by the presenters’ depth of knowledge and the wide range of topics they covered. I am very appreciative of the opportunity to be educated in these subjects about which I am so intensely desirous to learn.

I would like to say a few words about what TSN’s presentations have meant to me in a personal context. I am a gay man. Religion has always been a very important part of my life, but from early childhood my religion did not seem to fit me or rather, I did not fit. I had a strong faith in God but was told that I may not be loved by God as I am. I tried desperately to change, and prayed for God to change me into what He intended me to be. Now, decades later, I realize that I was simply not taught correctly. Also, as a child I could not understand racism and the apparent oppression of women that seemed common in the religious culture into which I was born. Fortunately, in my early life I simply did not allow the negative attitudes around me to shape my own thinking.

From TSN’s presentations I have learnt that serving those who are disadvantaged or marginalized in our community is of utmost importance in the three Abrahamic traditions. Since my retirement, I have been able volunteer quite a bit, mostly at my church soup kitchen, free community health fair, and housing repairs for those in need in our neighborhoods and poverty-stricken Appalachia. Currently, I am involved heavily with the Homeless Coalition of Southern Indiana. Giving of my time to help others has been more fulfilling than any other activity of my life, and I feel that it brings me closer to God.

The founder of TSN, Riffat Hassan, is one of the bravest women I have ever met. She has survived a long life of the struggle of being a Muslim feminist. I use the word “survived,” recognizing the dangers she must have encountered taking on the important work of challenging the misconceptions of religion that have pervaded centuries of patriarchal culture in which Islam developed.

Armed with knowledge I feel that I am now better prepared, enabled to speak with confidence against prejudice and bigotry which are the result primarily of ignorance.

TSN comes on the scene at a time in which its healing message is so greatly needed. Our nation is in a troubled period replete with division and misunderstanding with leads to discrimination, bigotry, and sadly - in some cases - to violence.

TSN is a network of peacemakers. By its very nature it is diverse and inclusive. TSN has the courage to tackle current issues that cripple our society. My life is much richer now as a result of taking advantage of these wonderful opportunities offered by TSN.

If only this type of educational programs existed nationwide. My hope is that TSN will grow in recognition and reach a broader audience, and hopefully, one day grow into the nationwide movement that our country so seriously needs to help with the healing of our nation and the spreading of peace and understanding amongst our citizens.

Lane Stumler

Role:  Volunteer