If you research the word, “interfaith”, on the Internet you will discover that since Nine Eleven citizens from many nations have organized to promote interreligious understanding and peace. The Faith Club, published by Free Press, is one example of this groundswell of a peacemaking activity. Ranya Idlibyl, a Muslim, Suzanne Oliver, an Episcopalian Christian, and Priscilla Warner, a Jew, all mothers of young children, decided to write a children’s book about Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. As the three mothers met to begin research on this project they discovered that each of them held mistaken stereotypes about the others’ religions and cultures. These stereotypes were sometimes amusing, but often not. They hurt feelings and aroused anger. Nevertheless, the growing friendship between the women gave them courage to persevere toward a common goal. As they tried to explain their faith to the other “club” members, they found that they needed to learn more about their own religious beliefs and customs. This inquiry took them deeper and deeper, challenging them to be utterly honest. Eventually, they began to grasp that despite some important differences between their religious perspectives they held much more in common than not. And they grew to appreciate more and more not only the religious faith of their partners, but their own faith as well. Their spiritual confidence had been strengthened by this no-holds-barred interfaith questioning.
I found that the book began on a very simple level; and I was at first disappointed with my purchase, thinking that that I had picked shallow material. But, as the women got to know each other better, and were emboldened to ask more probing questions, the story of their faith journey became more and more insightful and provocative. Their faith club changed their lives, claim Ranya, Suzanne, and Priscilla. They are so enthusiastic about the process of interfaith inquiry that they included ample guidance in the appendix to readers who would like to organize their own faith clubs. The Faith Club, as the title would suggest, is not an intellectual’s meat; but it is nevertheless an excellent introduction to several theological and political issues which have divided Christians, Jews, and Muslims for centuries. Thus, The Faith Club is a welcome encouragement in a world afflicted by religious fanaticism and strife.