Three North Texas clergy are using their friendship as a catalyst for change.
A Southern Dallas preacher, a Dallas rabbi and an Irving imam are using their different faiths to create a more tolerant community.
Rev. Michael W. Waters, Rabbi Nancy Kasten and Imam Omar Suleiman co-chair Faith Forward Dallas. It is a newly formed network through The Thanks-Giving Foundation of diverse clergy, and they hope the model they've developed can be shared in communities across North Texas and the country.
"Sometimes in our community here, people of faith feel embolden to say things that are not unifying and are divisive," Kasten said. "We want people to know this faith organization is standing up for those who want to create a city of compassion and a city of understanding."
The group is focused on using their collective faiths and congregations to push for justice, unity and peace.
"Too often we talk at each other. We're teaching how to talk to each other about these issues," Suleiman said.
To accomplish those goals, they realized they'd have to do more than preach.
The latest news from around North Texas.
They would have to teach their faithful how to embrace those of every religion.
It started with the three looking past what may divide people of their own Christian, Jewish and Islamic faiths and simply become friends.
"We did not want to give lip service to unity and collective action, but to make sure we're united together and know one another," Waters said. "We worship with one another and our congregations are able to dine with one another. [We're] able to form authentic relationships and able to model what those look like in broader society."
"The clear closeness – the brother and sisterhood we're forming amongst ourselves – those genuine relationships truly transform spaces that we've been in," Suleiman said.
That friendship would be tested and strengthened.
When protesters marched outside Irving mosques, the group showed up together to drown out hate against Muslims.
When frustrations swelled over police shootings of unarmed black men they pushed for action together.
When five police officers in Dallas were killed in July, it was the men and women of Faith Forward Dallas offering hope to a grieving community. Their members spoke at the citywide prayer service on the following day and led the prayers at the memorial service attended by President Barack Obama.
"Our role was to show the world that even during great darkness a light can appear. We could either move toward chaos or we could strengthen one another and move toward community," Waters said.
Faith Forward hopes to turn those moments of crisis into a catalyst for conversation. They're forming relationships and partnerships with North Texas churches, synagogues, mosques and temples and encouraging some difficult and constructive conversations.
"Dr. King said we have to learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools, and I think our commitment is living together as brothers and sisters to rebuild and restore and strengthen our communities. We're working at it. We have a ways to go, but we're committed to the work," Waters said.
The United Nations Association recently recognized the group's work in preaching a message of inclusion and acceptance in the days following the July 7 police shooting.
To learn more, visit the Faith Forward Dallas website.