Community’s educational efforts help understanding

Outreach efforts have two important parts: the extension of an offer and the acceptance of it. The local Muslim community and Columbus area residents are embracing that cooperative spirit through educational efforts.

Local Muslims have been working hard to improve understanding in the community that mainstream members of this religion are peace-loving, unlike those who have been radicalized and linked to terrorist attacks.

Local Muslims continued their outreach efforts with non-Muslims in Columbus during the Dec. 10 Ask a Muslim event in front of The Commons in downtown Columbus.

The informal event organized by the Islamic Society of Columbus Indiana continues its focus on education since national and international terror-related events unfolded via the Islamic State group.

About a dozen Muslims were present to answer questions and help facilitate discussion, and throughout the three hours 70 to 90 people passed through and participated, said Hanna Omar, vice president of the local Islamic Society.

“The event went really well. It really helped spark discussion about various issues,” Omar said. “It also helped build connections and relationships amongst people in the community that otherwise might not have had the chance to meet. Overall it provided the community the opportunity to come together and tackle important issues of the day.”

That event was on the heels of a Nov. 13 Muslim-Christian panel before a diverse audience of about 140 people at St. Bartholomew Catholic Church. That event was an outgrowth of a mostly Muslim-Catholic panel that began meeting regularly in 2015, a few months after the local Catholic church was spray-painted with graffiti phrases from the Koran.

The fact that these efforts to promote understanding between residents of different faith backgrounds are receiving solid participation by Muslims and non-Muslims is encouraging, and consistent with the goal that Columbus should be a welcoming community.

No progress is made on understanding the differences between people without taking the step to learn and understand what they are.

By doing so, we are more likely to discover many more shared similarities.