Coming together for the common goal of building a house with a neighbor in need has proven to be a successful way to heal divided communities. Most often, when people of different faiths come together to build a Habitat house, individuals find a new respect for one another.
In Ohio, “The Holy Toledo Build” brought together Christians, Jews and Muslims to build a home. The event broke down many barriers and led to new friendships.
During a similar project in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, participants used the event as an opportunity for honest dialogue.
Many people of faith are called to help the poor, serve others and make the world a better place. Building a Habitat home is a clear expression of faith for people of many diverse beliefs. The key to developing interfaith projects is to approach new partners from a spirit of humility and cooperation.
Overcoming challenges to build relationships
Interfaith builds bring some challenges. For example, a food coordinator in Redmond, Washington cooked for 1,200 Muslims, Jews and Catholics. Kitchen volunteers avoided using chicken stock, separated the food on the serving table and cooked in accordance with Jewish and Muslim traditions.
Workers also took breaks during the project while Muslims observed prayer times.
The late Millard Fuller, founder of Habitat for Humanity International, said that building relationships among people of different faiths creates a certain tension, “but it is a healthy tension that we can live with and be strengthened by. We don’t have to quit being a Christian ministry in order to invite our Muslim friends and our Jewish friends or people of other persuasions to be full participants in this work. You don’t have to exclude Jesus to include others,” he proclaims.
Maintaining our Christian identity
“It is essential that we make clear our Christian identity,” Fuller said. “So often Christians assume that other people are going to be offended, so they make sure not to mention Jesus or that we’re a Christian organization. In other words, quit being who you are because you might offend these other people. I think that is phony. Habitat for Humanity proclaims Christ in word and deed, and we don’t have to hide that to include others.”
“Likewise, promotional information should make it clear that Habitat is a Christian ministry, not an interfaith organization,” Fuller said.
“And during worship services surrounding an interfaith project, representatives of all faiths should participate and all supporters should be recognized,” Fuller said, “but we should not be afraid to pray in the name of Jesus.”
Presenting a Bible at interfaith house dedications
Says the late Millard Fuller, “If a mosque chooses to present a Koran as well, that is fine, but Habitat for Humanity is a Christian organization and we present a Bible.”