“The biggest evil now is SILENCE!” That was on a placard carried by protesters who were denouncing an attack on a place of worship. It was part of a short video, showing how people of differing faiths supported each other in times of crisis, presented by M. Said Selmanlar, President of the Lehigh Dialogue Center in Bethlehem, PA. He and five other members of the Muslim community agreed to meet with us for the Interculturality session during the Easton Assembly. Using a Venn Diagram, he showed the commonalities of Islam, Judaism and Christianity, the ‘Religions of the Book.’ He stressed that it is our humanness that we should emphasize before we focus on our differences, which he said “make up the beautiful garden that Allah created.” M. Said noted that many Turkish Muslims cannot return to their native country because they are followers of Muhammed Fethullah Gülen, a Turkish cleric living in Pennsylvania. Fethullah Gülen has won numerous international peace awards, including one from Pope Francis. Although he promotes education, civil society, and initiatives for religious tolerance , his teachings and philosophy is banned by the Turkish government.

The Lehigh Dialogue Center exists to promote tolerance, understanding and as its name states, dialogue between all people. They participate in and host many interfaith programs and classes, and their center and extensive library is open to the public. They invite people of all faiths to participate in their rituals and feasts.

In setting up this encounter, we were mindful that this year, 2019, is the 800 th  anniversary of the meeting of St. Francis of Assisi and the Sultan Malik al-Kamil.