The Annual Dinner of Abrahamic Traditions – Grand Rapids


Niagara Foundation organizes Dinner of Abrahamic Traditions every year for the purpose of strengthening friendship and understanding among three Abrahamic Traditions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

We proudly host a diverse group of guests, including clergy from churches, synagogues, and mosques, academicians from universities and seminaries, and leaders of many charitable and civic organizations.


Religious Tolerance


Very Rev. John J. Geaney, CSP, Rector/Pastor of Cathedral of Saint Andrew, Director of Catholic Information Center

Jeff Padnos, President, Padnos Corporation, Holland, Michigan

Dr. Imam Achmat Salie, Islamic Studies Program Developer at the University of Detroit Mercy

Thursday, October 30, 2014

6:30 pm – 9:00 pm

Park Church,
10 East Park PI NE, Grand Rapids , MI 49503

The 4th Annual Abrahamic Dinner In Grand Rapids Michigan

On Thursday Oct 30th 2014, Grand Rapids celebrated its 4th Annual Abrahamic Dinner in The First Park Congregational Church.

The night was a great example of interfaith collaborative work. The Niagara Foundation has organized the Annual Abrahamic Dinner independent in previous years, but this year for the first time The Kaufman Interfaith Institute joined the effort as a cosponsor.

Theme of the evening this year was “Religious Tolerance”.  Speakers from the three Abrahamic faith traditions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, addressed what this meant in their particular tradition. The event, hosted by the director of the Kaufman Interfaith Institute Dr. Kindschi, started with a brief welcome by representatives of The First Park Church and the Niagara Foundation. After a communal prayer, the guests shared a delicious meal served by a local restaurant. During the dinner guests engaged in conversations about the theme of the event.

The first speaker of the event Harvard alumni Mr. Jeff Padnos, the president of Padnos Corporation, shared his understandings of what the core value of tolerance is in the teachings and traditions of Judaism.  He gave examples to emphasize why we all need to move beyond the minimum tolerance. He summarized the main understanding of tolerance in the Jewish faith as “whatever is hateful to you, do not do to anybody else, all the rest is commentary”. Mr. Padnos said “ we do not have to worry about the complicated reasons and arguments to move beyond  tolerance just don’t worry, be tolerant and you will be happy or happier”.

Rev. John Geaney, Rector/Pastor of the Cathedral of Saint Andrew and the Director of Catholic Information Center was the second speaker of the night. Pastor Geaney has been very active with interfaith activities in Grand Rapids. He strongly emphasized the importance of going beyond tolerance since we are all human beings. He said “it is important for us to go beyond tolerance and take the next step  to love’’. He pointed out that every faith, especially Abrahamic faiths has some form of the golden rule; you love one another, as you wish to be loved yourself. Father Geaney asked “If all our faiths have this golden rule, if at the base of every one of our faiths this love is real, why we do not have the will to see good in others? Why is it we are only tolerant? He believes we need to remind one another; that we must go beyond tolerance to love.

Dr. Achmat Salie, Director of Islamic Studies and lecturer of Arabic at the University of Detroit Mercy, shared Islamic perspective on the topic of the evening.

Dr. Salie was also emphasized that we are all children of Adam. He said “pessimism is haram and inadmissible optimism is mandatory according to Quran”. He also pointed out  that all religions have same moral mission and we all need to restore this moral mission.  His suggestion to move from hostility to hospitality, from hurt to healing is Logotherapy; “find healing through meaning”. He said “We find our healing by finding the roots at a core of our faiths” and he believes the greatest violence is a violence of single identity. He believes only if we go beyond tolerance can we become a complete human being.

At the end of the program it was clear that there was a common message emanating from each faith tradition. Many guests expressed their appreciation for The Niagara Foundation’s collaborative work and effort to bring people together in the community to gain a better understanding of our diversities and come to appreciate the beauty in our colors. Some guests emphasized the necessity of such programs in the western Michigan community and  expressed their wish  to see such events continue in our community. The night was successful and pleasant; guests were looking forward to meeting again in similar setting in the near future.

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