Orhan Osman, executive director of the Oklahoma City branch of the Institute of Interfaith Dialog, said “Abrahamic Faiths Post-9/11” offers an opportunity to evaluate how far faith communities and interfaith dialogue have come as a result of the tragedy.
“I believe that good things can come out of evil,” said Osman, who was born in Turkey. “9/11 was a very big tragedy that affected countries and individuals all over the world. Out of this tragedy, we have seen people get to know each other better. No one wants their children in danger, and so we want to build a peaceful world.”
The Institute of Interfaith Dialog began in Houston the year after 9/11. Founded by members of the Turkish- American community who followed the teachings of moderate Muslim scholar Fethullah Gülen, the IID works to foster interfaith dialogue and shared experiences. One of these shared experiences helped initiate this event.
After developing a relationship with Osman, the Rev. Mitch Randall, the senior pastor of NorthHaven Church in Norman, invited him to accompany the church to Kenya to pass out mosquito nets as part of the church’s malaria prevention work.
“I’d already been discussing the possibility of doing interfaith work with Imam (Imad) Enchassi of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City,” Randall said, “and this trip was a chance to watch two faiths work sideby-side for a humanitarian cause.”
Osman went, and the two have worked together on projects since. Joining with other members of the faith community wanting to move from conversation to action, Randall, Osman, Enchassi and others began planning an event that would bring the three faiths together to commemorate 9/11.
I believe that good things can come out of evil.
Randall and Enchassi comprise two-thirds of “Building Peaceful Community in a Violent World,” moderated by Barbara Boyd, a religion professor at the University of Oklahoma. The two Oklahomans will be joined by Rabbi Brad Hirschfield (pictured), the president of the New York-based National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership.
“I began knocking on doors right after 9/11,” Osman said. “I told my friends, ‘We have to get out there and tell people who we are as the Muslim community. They are scared. We can’t hide. We have to answer their questions and show them that we are their neighbors.’ Every door I knocked on was opened, and everyone listened. We have to understand our genuine differences, not to separate us, but to make our community stronger.”
The free, public event is scheduled from 4 to 6 p.m. Sunday at the Nancy O’Brian Center for the Performing Arts in Norman, 1809 Stubbeman.