Muslims and Christians explore common bonds during Iraqi Kurds’ visit to DuluthReligion doesn’t have to be a barrier between the East and the West, a member of an Iraqi delegation visiting Duluth told a group on Wednesday.
By: John Lundy, Duluth News Tribune
Religion doesn’t have to be a barrier between the East and the West, a member of an Iraqi delegation visiting Duluth told a group on Wednesday.
“We are all brothers. We are all from the same father and mother,” said Abdullah Adm, director of Muslim clerics in Rania, a Kurdish city in northeastern Iraq that has an ongoing relationship with Duluth. “As Muslim believers we think that all religions are correct. We believe in all the messages of other religions, because all of them are messages from God.”
He was speaking through translator Paiman Ahmad, director of media and publications at the University of Raparin, in Rania. Adm and Ahmad and the other four members of their delegation, who have been in Duluth since Sept. 13, met with members of Duluth’s religious community over breakfast in the fellowship hall of the Duluth Congregational Church in the Congdon Park neighborhood.
It’s the second time a group from Rania has visited Duluth, and Duluth delegations have paid two visits to Rania. This group has made stops at the University of Minnesota Duluth and the College of St. Scholastica, had dinners at the Islamic Center of the Twin Ports and First United Methodist Church, toured Duluth East High School and will learn about Duluth’s Domestic Abuse Intervention Project today, among other activities.
Cathy Schuyler, the church’s pastor, served as host and made sure her guests knew that all the ingredients for breakfast were from local sources: vegetables purchased that morning from the Duluth Farmers Market; eggs from a farm in Moose Lake. They were seated at round tables in groups of six or seven mixed between Ranians and Duluthians, and chatted about differences and similarities in their cultures.
Michele Naar-Obed of Duluth started the exchanges, working with her friend, Khalid Qader, who has been in both of the Ranian delegations. Naar-Obed said that during the time she spent in Rania — 36 months over six years — she was struck by the number of religious beliefs that exist side by side in Kurdish Iraq.
Among them are ancient religions that may no longer be known in the rest of the world. In the Kurdistan region, she said, there are even followers of John the Baptist, the New Testament figure who announced the coming of Christ.
At her table, Ahmad said she had studied the effect of religion on Eastern and Western cultures, and she asked if many people in Duluth attend religious services.
“While church attendance may be getting smaller, I think it’s broader,” said Dulce Proud, a chaplain at St. Luke’s hospital. She explained that people live out their spiritual beliefs in their lives.
In an interview, Rania delegation leader Mohammed Ali Abdulla said the region has experienced greater religious freedom as well as political and economic freedom since the fall of Saddam Hussein.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank the U.S.A. for coming to our area … and freeing our people,” said Abdulla, who is president of the University of Raparin.
Both Abdulla and Adm said they hope that one day the Kurdish people, who were divided among the nations of Turkey, Syria, Iran and Iraq at the end of World War I, will be an independent nation.
Naar-Obed noted that the 40 million Kurds are the largest minority group in the world without a nation to call their homeland.