December 30, 2023

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Reflecting on 2023: Highlights and Heartfelt Wishes for the Year Ahead

Dear Friends of the IFLC,

Earlier this month, we wrote to you, requesting your support for the coming year, so that we might continue our work in bringing together our diverse Greater Metropolitan Detroit faith-based community as we collectively strive to achieve true understanding of one another. The theme for that letter was the simultaneously obvious and discomforting “This Year is Different.” If you didn’t receive the earlier communication, it is attached to this letter by clicking here: Giving to the IFLC, and, of course, your continuing (or first time) support is greatly appreciated.

The purpose of this letter is to encapsulate some of the highlights of this past year. 

The impetus for our earlier appeal stemmed from events unfolding in the Middle East. However, within the Greater Metropolitan Detroit area, the past year marked considerable progress, surpassing the ambitions of previous years, acquiring new success stories, and reinforcing our commitment to increase our efforts in the upcoming year. Hence, from that perspective, too, “this year was different.”

Bridging to Belonging

Additionally, we were honored to have an opportunity to share the wisdom of john a. powell, a native Detroiter and director of the Othering and Belonging Institute at the University of California Berkeley, who presented, “Building Horizons: Embracing Differences and Finding Belonging.” Powell, an international expert in civil rights, civil liberty, structural racism, and social justice spoke with members of the IFLC community and others at The Henry Ford during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

Finally, the IFLC has begun discussions with local and statewide library officials to explore how libraries can be places of community engagement, particularly as sites for Bridging to Belonging groups. Libraries have been sources of lectures and films sponsored by the IFLC in the past and promise to have great potential in the year ahead.

Religious Diversity Journeys

The Interfaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit’s Religious Diversity Journeys program has been nothing short of extraordinary. This year, IFLC proudly facilitated the exploration of diverse religious perspectives among nearly 400 students from 23 Metro Detroit schools. This number of students required organization of 24 separate Journeys and collaboration with over 150 volunteers.

Our geographic reach expanded considerably, welcoming new schools and districts in Madison Heights, Clarkston, Plymouth, Canton and Brandon. These new partners brought fresh energy and enthusiasm to our initiative, creating bridges of understanding in communities previously untouched by our program.

We were also gratified to welcome new host sites, including Congregation Shir Tikvah, Islamic Organization of North America, First Congregational Church of Detroit, Kirk in the Hills, and Christ Church Cranbrook. These new spaces provided inspiring atmospheres conducive to student dialogue, learning and the celebration of religious diversity.

Finally, in an effort to broaden our students’ cultural experiences, we developed exciting partnerships with esteemed institutions such as the American Arab National Museum and the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. These collaborations have enriched our journeys, providing students with a deeper appreciation for the range of beliefs that can be found among our Metro Detroit neighbors.

In the coming year, we look forward to welcoming students and houses of worship in Macomb County and an increasing number of students and schools from Detroit. While our RDJ program historically has targeted middle school students, in the coming year, we are thrilled to announce an inaugural RDJ high school initiative, catering to the unique needs and inquiries of older students. With the goal of enrolling over 500 students, our commitment to fostering religious diversity is stronger than ever.

Education Committee

The IFLC Education Committee held both in-person and virtual events, with prior years’ events experiencing a resurgence and the launching of new programming.


Following a three-year hiatus, our "Ask a . . ." event resumed in February. Two authors, one Jewish and one Christian, Todd Hasak-Lowy, author of the work for young adults, We Are Power: How Nonviolent Activism Changes the World, and Mollie Monahan, co-founder and curriculum writer for the Social Justice Kids program for grades K-12, shared their perspectives on writing about social justice for young people. 

Also, after a three year pause due to the pandemic, the World Sabbath returned to in-person attendance last March and was generously hosted by Temple Israel of West Bloomfield. Both long-affiliated partners and new presenters participated. The event was well attended with many of our area’s faith traditions represented.

In April, in connection with IFLC’s Bridging to Belonging initiative, the Education Committee organized a panel discussion on "Mutuality" at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Bloomfield Hills. Representatives from our Jewish, Christian, and Muslim faith communities discussed their respective spring celebrations (Passover, Easter, and Ramadan) emphasizing the ways they overlap and contain common themes. 

In October, we enjoyed the IFLC’s inaugural Detroit Religious Heritage Bus Tour, Hosted by Paula Drewek, religious scholar, and longtime affiliate of the IFLC. The tour originally contemplated Jewish, Christian, and Muslim historic houses of worship in Detroit. Due to last-minute scheduling changes, the participants toured two churches (First Congregational Church and Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church) and one synagogue (Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue). Our tour bus was filled to capacity with 34 participants. Based on the response to this year’s tour, two tours (with new sites) are in the works for 2024. 

In December, in partnership with the Zekelman Holocaust Center, the Education Committee hosted a viewing of the documentary, Determined, chronicling the indefatigable resolve of Holocaust survivor, Dr. Avraham Perlmutter. The event was made possible due to the efforts of Perlmutter’s daughter, award-winning scientist and speaker, Dr. Keren Perlmutter. Dr. Perlmutter and members of the Dutch Christian family that hid the elder Perlmutter in the Netherlands during the Holocaust answered questions from the nearly 700 registered virtual event attendees.

In 2024, a number of events are already scheduled: on Sunday, February 25, high school student, Zachary Rodger, will presenting his book on the spiritual practice of fasting at the West Bloomfield Public Library; the World Sabbath will return to the Bharatiya Temple (Hindu) in Troy on Sunday, March 3; two bus tours will be offered, including one centered on faith communities assisting the Underground Railroad Detroit; and our very first Detroit Faith and Works Podcast live launch event and panel discussion is scheduled for January 18th. Numerous additional programs are in the planning phase and will be announced as details are finalized.

Interfaith Thanksgiving Service in Macomb County 

The IFLC has had a longstanding interest in serving the interfaith and cultural needs of Macomb County, dating back to our early support of the Islamic Organization of North America (IONA) based in Warren. IFLC staff helped coordinate this year’s “Harmonious Celebration of Unity: Thanksgiving Service at St. Faustina Catholic Church in Warren.” In addition to our Catholic host, representatives from various faiths were present, including the Baha’i faith, the Midwest Buddhist Meditation Center in Warren, First United Methodist Church, Bharatiya Temple, IONA, Mata Tripta Gurdwara, and members of the IFLC leadership. 

Interfaith Health Equity Partnership

In our year-end reflection, we have determined that the focal point of our health equity efforts lies in addressing mental health. There are numerous challenges, spanning across grief, trauma, substance abuse, the stigma surrounding mental health care-seeking, suicide ideation, and implicit biases leading to disparities in healthcare services. , have been identified. The multitude of social elements associated with mental health further obstructs access to necessary healthcare.

A notable initiative was the committee's active participation in a faith and substance abuse conference organized by the Detroit Wayne Integrated Health Network. Henry Ford Health's Shawn Bennis, a committee member, represented IHEP and IFLC, delivering a presentation on the significance of Advance Directives and the potential adverse consequences of neglecting them. The conference drew a substantial audience of over 100 attendees.

In partnership with the Gift of Life Organization, we hosted a conference on October 19th, exploring the roots of implicit bias and its impact on the health of at-risk populations. Dr. Velda Love, served as the keynote speaker, and an interfaith panel of respondents featuring a Christian, a Rabbi, and a Muslim enriched the discussion. 

Looking ahead to 2024, our agenda includes implementing a Prayer Breakfast/Brunch for Faith Leaders, centered on emphasizing disparities and inequities in mental health. Additionally, we aim to pursue a grant opportunity to secure resources for addressing mental health disparities, incorporating related social determinants of health care through outreach and education. A Bridging to Belonging session has been scheduled for a subset of the committee, fostering a collaborative approach to inclusivity and understanding.

Faith & Works Podcast

The IFLC’s “Faith & Works” podcast series successfully produced new installments collectively entitled, “What is the Sacred?” This past year’s podcasts included the segments “Surveillance and Sacrality,” “What is Sacred in Sacred Music,” “What is Sacred in Our World Today” and “Are Our Children Sacred to Us Today?” As proof that our work makes a difference, after hearing that last podcast, Bishop Corletta Vaughn, a Detroit School Board member, made “Are Our Children Sacred to Us Today?” the theme of her Faith and Public Education Conference held at Huntington Place, and asked IFLC Vice Chair, Bob Bruttell, to give the keynote address at her conference. Links to our library of podcasts can be found at the IFLC website:

We would be remiss in concluding this year-end statement without an acknowledgement that we are currently experiencing unprecedented (in our lifetime) world events. October 7th was a horrific event. The ongoing destruction in Gaza is horrific. Both make us cry with grief and pain. Perhaps, in moments like these, even those of us committed to interfaith work may question the value of what the IFLC does. Working to understand sometimes seems inconsequential. But now…, now, when the anger and misunderstanding is so palpable, working for understanding is not the least bit inconsequential. The fact that we have a diverse board, some of whose opinions are sharply at odds with one another, that has redoubled its efforts to work to maintain friendships and understanding, continues to inspire us all. Our programming, which strives to reach both our IFLC members and our greater community, is more consequential than ever. In truth, it has always been consequential. The work is simply more challenging in this moment. It’s never been easy, but we, all of us, remain committed. That is why we call it “interfaith work.”

The war in Israel/Gaza prompted the Board of Directors to compose its Prayer for Healing, Peace, and Unity in Troubled Times. We are reprinting that prayer and invite you to share it among your contacts. Additionally, we have asked the members of our Board to provide prayers for peace, either from their respective religious denominations or from their own hearts, as inspired by their individual religious affiliations. We hope you will discover that all these prayers uniformly emanate from a universal sense of the Sacred. We are bound together by our common fragile humanity. 

We hope that in these difficult times, the following prayers and expressions of peace bring you some measure of comfort:

The InterFaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit's Prayer for Peace, 2023

O God, Spirit that Guides Us, Harden Not Our Hearts…

Shanti, Salaam, Shalom, our faiths center on peace, goodwill and care for all.

But our souls are deeply troubled.

We have seen and heard things that cannot be unseen nor unheard.

We are fearful. We are angry. We are in pain. The spirit of our communities is in trauma.

We are at odds with some of our brothers and sisters.

We need compassion and a comforting word.

We despair of finding the peace of which our traditions speak.

We cry out through our tears for understanding, for God’s healing grace.

We know all our scriptures call for peace.

We know that with your guidance we can again create common ground and bridges to one another.

O God, we pray that our communities will hear your voice, care for one another and seek peace.


Gail Katz 

Birkat Shalom/Peace 

The final blessing of the Amidah is Birkat Shalom, the prayer for peace. We conclude this blessing with Oseh Shalom, which asks that the One who makes peace in the high places make peace for us. During a social action service, this moment would be an opportunity to include another kind of prayer, one that does not only ask God to bestow peace, but that God help us to bring peace and justice into the world. In addition, the end of the Amidah is generally a time of silence and contemplation. The right reading or piece of music can be very effective in bringing people from that silence into the next portion of the service. If a sermon or D’var Torah about social action follows, the reading can serve as an introduction to it. 

Dr. Walid Harb

In the name of God, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,

Dear loving Almighty God,

We totally and completely submit to Your Will and Decree that every human being is equal and deserving of respect, dignity, freedom, self-determination and free from prejudice and wrongful persecution. God Almighty, we long for Your Mercy, Peace and Justice in this life and in the Hereafter. 


Asim Khan

The first thing that came to my mind was the Quranic Chapter Surah Ad-Duha. This is the 93rd chapter of the holy Quran. Quran has a total of 114 chapters.

The benefits of reciting Surah Duha extends to increased provisions, blessings, and a sense of divine comfort. Ultimately, this chapter exemplifies the Quran’s timeless wisdom, offering enduring lessons for those seeking solace and spiritual growth.

Surah Ad-Duha holds profound significance and offers several benefits for those who recite it. Let’s explore its wisdom:

Comfort in Times of Stress: This Meccan surah was revealed during a period when the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH - Peace Be Upon Him) faced immense tension and stress. It contains 11 verses that provide solace and encouragement to the believer. When you’re feeling down, reciting Surah Ad-Duha can help alleviate depression and anxiety.

Divine Assurance: The surah begins with an oath by the morning sunlight and the night’s darkness. It reassures the Prophet (SAW) that God has not abandoned him and is not displeased with him. The hereafter is promised to be far better than this world.

Hope and Positivity: Surah Ad-Duha reminds us that God’s love and guidance are constant. It recounts how God sheltered the Prophet (SAW) when he was an orphan, guided him when he was lost, and provided for him when he was poor. This surah encourages us to focus on the blessings we have.

Finding Lost Items: If something is forgotten or misplaced, reciting Surah Ad-Duha keeps it safe until you retrieve it.

Intercession: Reciting this surah with the name of a person who has gone missing is believed to bring them back home safely.

In summary, Surah Ad-Duha extends blessings, provisions, and a sense of divine comfort. Its timeless wisdom offers enduring lessons for those seeking solace and spiritual growth. Remember that hardships won’t last forever, and God’s support is unwavering.

English Translation of Surah Ad-Duha

By the morning sunlight,

And [by] the night when it covers with darkness,

Your Lord [O Prophet] has not abandoned you, nor has He become hateful [of you].

And the next life is certainly far better for you than this one.

And your Lord is going to give you, and you will be satisfied.

Did He not find you as an orphan then sheltered you?

And He found you lost and guided [you],

And He found you poor and made [you] self-sufficient.

So as for the orphan, do not oppress [him].

And as for the beggar, do not repel [him].

And proclaim the blessings of your Lord.

Dr. Anil Kumar

Dear Lord,

In these times, when the world is in turmoil and humanity is embracing hatred and war, give me the strength to say to my neighbor, the ‘Gandhi prayer’.

I offer you peace. I offer you love. I offer you friendship. I see your beauty. I hear your need. I feel your feelings. My wisdom flows from the highest source. I salute that source in you. Let us work together for unity and love. 

Om Shanti! Shanti! Shanti!

Padmaja Rao

My personal thought and hope for the entire world reflects the Shanti mantra that I believe is appropriate especially during this time. Shanti means peace and you will find below one of the Shanti (peace) mantras from Hinduism for wishing peace & blessings for the whole world:  

Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinah

Sarve Santu Nir-Aamayaah |

Sarve Bhadraanni Pashyantu

Maa Kashcid-Duhkha-Bhaag-Bhavet |

Aum Shaantih Shaantih Shaantih ||


May All become Happy,

May All be Free from Illness.

May All See what is Auspicious,

May no one Suffer.

OM (Aum) - Peace, Peace, Peace

Cynthia Taueg 

Let us be instruments of Peace!

Scripture tells us in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians to bind ourselves together with peace. A heart of peace recognizes and honors the fact that we are all created by God. It honors the fact that all people are united in our humanity and share the same basic goals for our lives and our loved ones. It honors our God given free will to disagree with each other without malice or hubris.  It honors the sanctity of life. Romans 12:18 says “as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone”. Christ in his sermon on the mount says Blessed are the peace makers. As Christians we are called to be instruments of peace wherever we live, work and play. We are called to be instruments of peace even when challenged by others who do not share our same beliefs. This is not a position of weakness but of honoring God. I pray during these difficult times that each of us will demonstrate a heart of peace and receive the blessings that it brings.

Karin Dains

To my Heavenly Father: I thank Thee every day for the blessings of family, a warm home, plenty of food and the necessities of life that so many in the world are deprived of. Please let me be inspired to do good regardless of the challenges that lie ahead. Bless my dear brothers and sisters of all faiths. I am grateful for the knowledge and love they bring into my life. I beg Thee to reach out to the people instigating war throughout the world and to help them see that the ones they seek to destroy are also their brothers, sisters, and children. Bless the hearts and lives of those who have lost loved ones, and let them feel Thy presence and love. Bless these wonderful souls with food, shelter, medicine, and the necessities for survival that so many of us take for granted. Thou art the source of truth and light, and I pray not only that I will never be blinded from that knowledge but that somehow I have the ability to carry that light forward. This I pray in the name of thy beloved Son. Amen.

Bryant Frank

Shalom Rav, grant us peace, Thy most precious gift, Thou eternal source of peace. Shalom Rav, bless all countries that they may be strongholds of peace. May contentment reign within their borders and may there be bonds of friendship throughout the world. Shalom Rav, grant virtue in every soul and love for Thy Name in every heart.

Charles Packer

For Troubled Hearts: Reflection on Peace at the Close of 2023

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled..." (Jesus in John 14.27 NRSV)

 Jesus has said these words as part of his final earthly speech to his disciples, his followers. It is meant to reassure and to calm them, to ease their concerns about what the future would hold.

"Peace," Jesus gave to them. "Peace," he left as his legacy.

 And yet, our hearts are troubled in these days. To take the messages that surround us each day, the sound bites, the media reporting cycle, the endless doomscrolling, there is much to disquiet the deepest parts of our souls and shake us to the core.

As Christians are people of the good news, we struggle to claim that proclamation of grace and hope and goodwill and love in the midst of a world so torn apart by division among groups and conflict among factions and violence between and even within nations.

Still, Christians believe that our calling is to be ambassadors of the good news, heralds of the presence of the divine, mediators of healing where there has been hurt and discord and devastated relationships.

At the end of 2023, Christians have just observed the holiday of Christmas, the birth of Jesus the Christ, who is held by the faithful to be the very child of God who has entered into human history in the most vulnerable form of a baby born in a stable and placed in a manger among others of God's living creatures. There could be no more humble way of God's self-revelation.

The words of Jesus echo among those who commit themselves to his mission of service and of reconciliation.

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled..."

O Giver of Peace, in those spaces and places, among your beloved children near and far, let the annunciation of peace sound forth and be stronger than all other assertions to the contrary. Help those who might use their words and their presence to not remain on the sidelines, but to advocate for peace that endures. Humble us to not try to fix what we do not fully understand, but to remain connected, to listen, and to be in solidarity with all who are suffering and whose hearts are troubled in this time. Amen.

Dennis Archambault

Pope Francis, the pastoral leader of the Catholic Church and Vatican Head of State, has increasingly called for the end of hostilities in Israel and Gaza: "No to weapons, yes to peace," he said. "Enough, enough brothers, enough... I am close to all who suffer.”

We find ourselves at the close of the calendar year overwhelmed by reports of death and destruction in the Middle East, Ukraine, and less visible war zones, the perilous flight of refugees and other migrants, oppressive human trafficking, and violence in crime-ridden urban centers. It seems that suffering is universal and wishes for peace are unreasonable. Only prayer offers hope.

As someone who comes from the Catholic Christian culture, together with others of different faiths in the IFLC community, I believe that our prayer for peace is what we need at a time such as this. Let us pray, and let us hope for peace.

Bob Bruttell

A Meditiation… 

O Spirit of God that guides me, 

May all beings be free from danger.

May all beings find comfort and safety.

May all beings be free from rage and revenge.

May all beings find equanimity.

May all beings be free from mental anguish.

May all beings find peace of mind.

May all beings be free from war and hostility.

May all beings find harmony and friendship.

May all beings be free from famine and drought.

May all beings find adequate sustenance.

May all beings be free from sadness and depression.

May all beings find balance and well-being.

May all beings rest assured in a deep peace, peace, peace.

We wish you the best of health, happiness, and prosperity in 2024. Thank you for your continued support and commitment to the InterFaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit.


The InterFaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit


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InterFaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit |  P.O. Box 252271, West Bloomfield, MI 48325

Phone: 313.338.9777 |  Email: