Mahatma Gandhi once said, "Be the change you want to see in the world."
I try in a very small way to do that with this column and with my Beliefnet blog, "Beyond Blue." I am inspired by a few moms in my neighborhood who have established a grassroots movement, which has grown to over 100 families in our area.
This movement offers the support that many of us don’t get from our families, fights against crime on our streets and works to improve our local elementary school so that parents don’t have to uproot their families and move to a better school district by the time their oldest child turns 5.
But perhaps the best example of Gandhi’s words in action is "The Faith Club." It was started by a Christian, a Jew and a Muslim in New York City right after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.
Ranya Idiby, a Muslim, wanted to find two mothers — one Christian, the other Jewish — who would help her write a children’s book highlighting their common religious heritage.
In essence, she wanted to present the other side of the Muslim faith, showing the compassionate believer who has much more in common with both Jews and Christians than is presented in today’s media.
Idiby met Christian Suzanne Oliver at the school bus stop; their daughters started kindergarten together in September 2001.
"I was the lucky one," explains Priscilla Warner, the Jewish mother who joined the project. "I just answered a telephone call. That phone call changed my life forever."
They never published their children’s book, however. They published something much more substantial, at least to a young-adult Christian like me who wants to understand her neighbors and in-laws a lot better.
The Faith Club: A Muslim, A Christian, A Jew — Three Women Search for Understanding reads like a fascinating dialogue you were fortunate to overhear.
As so often happens with bestsellers like theirs, the conversations in the book came about organically.
Says Idiby: "Life was our biggest source of material, from aging parents and curious children to cocktail parties and Easter bunnies."
I laughed at the stereotypes debunked in the book, ones that I must confess to holding myself, and at the crises along the way, like when Warner and Oliver had a spat over the Passion narrative. I laughed because if I hadn’t had the same exact argument somewhere along the line, I knew of someone who did.
For example, a friend of a good friend, a Jewish mother who sends her daughter to a Catholic school, told me about the time she and her Catholic friend started arguing over the term "Christ killer."
"For the thousandth time, I’m telling you: We did not kill Jesus!" she yelled to her Catholic friend.
"Well then who did?" the Catholic responded.
"Duh! Pontius Pilate and the Romans!" said the Jewish mother.
"The Faith Club" has spawned the creation of many "faith clubs" in different pockets of the world and in social networking sites, such as Beliefnet’s community.
The authors’ hope for the book? To be the change they want to see in the world.
Says Warner: "I think we live in a time when we have no real choice other than to connect with each other. In our little trio, we’ve seen what happens when you keep at it, keep forcing the dialogue. If this kind of dialogue could spread, one trio at a time, it could eventually make a huge difference."
Therese J. Borchard is a columnist for Catholic News Service.