Lomita Park School Book Sorting Project

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ING’s Fall 2013 Interfaith Service Days



Sunday, October 6, 2013

Address: 1310 Bayshore Highway, Suite 11, Burlingame, CA
Time: 1:00-4:00 pm
Service: Sorting K-3 books for Lomita Park School in Burlingame
Outcomes: Participants sorted hundreds of books.

Attended by Muslims, Jews and Christians, the event took place at Pacifica Institute in Burlingame, where the hosts have a long tradition of interfaith engagement and cooperation. Following a Mediterranean lunch, participants discussed ways in which faith groups can help support and improve our public schools. You can view photos from the event and results of our discussion on this page.

The service portion of the event was organized with the Jewish Coalition for Literacy and included sorting books that had been donated for K-3rd grade. The books were then donated to Lomita Park Elementary School in Burlingame.

Discussion questions and responses:

Topic: the role of private religious schools (Islamic, Jewish, Catholic) in developing engaged, productive citizens. Being a good citizen in our multifaith and multicultural country requires openness and respect towards other cultures and religions. This raises the following questions:

1. How can faith communities promote and strengthen public education without violating separation of church and state?

Group Responses:

  • Provide education about religion to teachers and students.
  • Take advantage of school cultural events to bring information about culture and religion.
  • Mobilize the community to support and reform public schools.
  • Work against stereotyping.
  • Make students and teachers aware of religious observances (holidays, festivals, etc).
  • Be “out” with your faith in the public square

2. What unique capabilities and resources can faith-based organizations provide to support and strengthen public schools?

Group Responses:

  • Organize community events to provide volunteer help to schools and to support low-income students.
  • Encourage interfaith cooperation in volunteering for schools.
  • Use inclusive and pluralist language and encourage its use by schools.
  • Provide access to the substantial segment of the community that is in faith-based organizations.

3. How can faith-based organizations mobilize communities to support students (especially low-income students), parents, teachers and public schools?

Group Responses:

  • Do interfaith community events to support schools to strengthen both community ties and personal faith.
  • Support and/or provide athletic activities for low-income (and other) students.
  • Provide resources, funding, and scholarships for students and teachers.
  • Provide fundraisers, book drives, etc., for student activities.
  • Organize communities to support school funding measures.

Ismael Naas

Part of each service project is a Friday khutbah (sermon) at a local mosque prior to the event as a way to encourage participation and greater interfaith involvement. ING Speaker Ismael Nass delivered the khutbah at Yaseen Foundation in Belmont on October 4th, where he emphasized the following points:

1. Diversity in all forms is God’s will.

The Qur’an stresses that pluralism, which is the active engagement of diverse groups of people, is essential for the growth and development of humanity. The following Qur’anic passages illustrate this message:

  • “For each of them, We have established a law, and a revealed way. And if God wished, God would have made you a single nation; but the intent is to test you in what God has given you. So let your goals be everything good. Your destiny, everyone, is to God, Who will tell you about that wherein you differed.” (5:48)
  • “And had thy Lord so willed, He could surely have made humankind one people; but [He willed it otherwise, and so] they continue to hold divergent views, except those to whom your Lord has shown mercy. And it is for this that God created them.” (11:118-119)

2. We are commanded to respect and appreciate our differences with people of different faiths and people with whom we disagree. The following Qur’anic passages illustrate this message:

  • “Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good advice, and debate with others in the most dignified manner. For your Lord knows best who is astray from the way of God, and knows best who are the ones who are guided.” (16:125)

3. Good deeds and sincere cooperation between Muslims and people of other faiths are of central importance in this life, as shown in the following Qur’anic verses:

  • “The Muslims, the Jews, the Christians, and the Sabians, any who believe in God and the last day and do good have their reward with their Lord. There is nothing for them to fear; they will not sorrow.” (2:62)
  • Righteousness is not that you should turn your faces to the East and the West; rather, the righteousness are those who believe in God and the Last day, and the angels and scripture and prophets; and who give material gifts out of love for God, even of what they care for, to relatives and orphans, and the poor and the traveler and the needy, and for the purpose of liberating the enslaved; and who pray regularly and give alms; and who fulfill their promises; and those who are patient in misfortune, affliction, and hard times: they are the ones who confirm the truth, and they are the conscientious.” (2:177)
  • “…Among the people of scripture is a community that is upstanding; they read the signs of God through the hours of the night, prostrating themselves. They believe in God and the last day, and they enjoin what is fair and forbid what is repugnant, and they race to good deeds; they are among the righteous. And whatever good they do, they will not be denied it; God knows the conscientious.” (3:113-115)

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