By Elle Roberts, AFSC Indiana Peacebuilding Program Assistant
The night before Election Day, a group of over 80 people from all walks of life gathered at the Indianapolis Interchurch Center to learn about the Houses of Abraham, a panel discussion highlighting the spiritual landmarks of the three Abrahamic faith systems. The discussion was part of this year’s Spirit & Place Festival, a community project catalyzing civic engagement through the arts, humanities, and religion.
Panelists Dr. Mary Ann Fadae of the Jerrahi Order, Father Nabil Hanna of St. George Orthodox Church, and Rabbi Brant Rosen of Tzedek Chicago represented Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, respectively. Each spoke about the spiritual representations of physical places held in the utmost regard and shared the historical and religious origins of the monuments, weaved into their personal stories of faith.
Dr. Fadae began her talk with scripture from the Quran, Surah Al-Israa 17:1. “Exalted is He who took His Servant by night from al Masjid al-Haram to al-Masjid al-Aqsa, whose surroundings we have blessed, to show him of Our signs. Indeed, He is the Hearing, the Seeing.” Al-Aqsa Mosque is what is called the Farthest Mosque, a most holy place of the Muslim faith. Within the Dome of the Rock, Dr. Fadae noted the architecture and design including patterns, bright colors, and Arabic calligraphy.
“Each of us have a different bent on Holy Places with so much overlap in religious history,” said Rabbi Rosen, while showing historical and present-day photos of the Western Wall. The wall was not a part of the holy temple when it was destroyed, but the destruction led to two existential issues for Jewish people: the presence of G-d without a physical place for G-d and the dispersion of Jewish people from Israel. Rabbi Rosen intently explored the symbolism of the Western Wall within Israeli occupation of Palestine. “I can’t remove a Holy Place from its political context,” he said.
Father Hanna focused on the Church of the Resurrection, reminding the audience that the more widely known Church of the Holy Sepulcher is inside of it and often mistaken for it. He displayed photos of his walk through the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, pointing out the marble-clad cave where Jesus was born. “My pilgrimage both illustrated and strengthened my faith,” he shared. Father Hanna’s remark best captured the sentiment and reason for the evening of learning and connecting with one another, through faith, in trying times unfolding.
Click here to watch a livestream of this event on Facebook.