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Guest blogger Jessica Bean is a fellow at the Buxton Initiative, a Case Foundation partner organization.
The end of the 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter comes this weekend, and it is a special and reflective time for me and my colleagues at the Buxton Initiative. At Buxton, we have been working to create an environment that allows each one of us to speak openly about our beliefs.
It is during these holidays that we especially try to engage in dialogue to better understand what they mean to each of us. As these religious holidays come upon us, there’s much discussion about how for me the Easter season is a reminder of a great event that changed the human story 2,000 years ago; for Abbas, my Muslim coworker, it is a reminder of God’s favor of the prophet Jesus by raising him, alive, to heaven; for my Jewish coworkers, they celebrate Passover at this time, a celebration of God’s liberation of the Israelites from the control of the Egyptians. At the end of the discussions we usually find ourselves caught in the tension of wanting to respect the faith of one another while still believing that our own faith is true.
What has allowed our relationships to flourish here is our concerted efforts to protect what is sacred to each one of us and not minimize our differences. We hold events with the end goal to understand one another better, not only through our similarities, but at the core of our differences.
The Buxton Initiative has been working to uphold this model of interfaith dialogue since 9/11. Our founder, Doug Holladay, began meeting with Dr. Akbar Ahmed from American University in order to understand their faiths and through their meetings, created the Buxton Initiative. In an Op-ed they did together for the Washington Times in 2004, they explained their model behind the Buxton Initiative stating:
We offer a simple yet profound proposal: look to faith and friendship as the vital bridge to establishing deep understanding. Consciously or not, the world is desperately searching for authentic models that engender hope and where real faith breeds civility and trust.
Eight years later they have taken their model to the wider community of DC, through events which host a variety of speakers from all three of the Abrahamic faiths. They have also expanded their work to engage the young professionals of DC so that they, too, have the opportunity to interact with others from different faiths.
Through this model of dialogue, the Buxton interns have developed healthy and affirming relationships. These relationships allow us to celebrate each other and the differences in our faiths and traditions, no matter how we differ in our views of the holy holidays.