Religions for Peace USA seeks to envision a nation in which people of faith and goodwill live together in respect and mutual support, creating paths to peace and justice.  When dangerous mentalities and climates of distrust arise that threaten to obstruct this pathway, Religions for Peace seeks to offer a more positive way forward.  One such offering, formed in recognition of the growing Islamophobia in our country, is the Our Muslim Neighbor initiative.

Our Muslim Neighbor seeks “to create a social climate that renders anti-Islamic sentiments immoral and unacceptable.”  We believe relationship building to be the best way of accomplishing this goal.  One way we seek to foster relationship is through a program entitled A Seat At The Table.  These dinners bring 10-12 people of different faith and cultural backgrounds together to share a meal.  During the meal, participants are invited to share their stories.  These dinners seek to dispel harmful prejudices and dismantle incorrect depictions of the Islamic community.  As relationships help eradicate fear and hatred, stories bring people into relationship by transforming abstraction into a real connection with one’s neighbor.  From these dinners we hope attendees choose to host their own gatherings and that ASATT produces a large, interfaith network passionate about creating a positive vision for its community.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Center for American Progress named Middle Tennessee as one of the most Islamophobic regions in the United States.  With this is mind, the nationally envisioned OMN campaign chose Nashville, TN as its pilot location and has experienced a good deal of success in the area.  Religions for Peace expanded to Knoxville because a community member recognized a need and reached out to us.  The way in which our presence in Knoxville originated is our continual hope for Religions for Peace USA as our network widens: that we might help give form and body to an existent growing awareness within the community.

Currently, we are undergoing the important groundwork of listening to local voices speak to concerns, hopes, and visions for RFPUSA’s involvement in Knoxville.  We have established and met with a core planning committee of community and faith leaders and hosted our first ASATT, which was well received.  The core team has committed to hosting at least one ASATT dinner a month for the rest of the year.  We hope that as we grow deeper roots in Knoxville, ASATT dinners will give way to a strong, interfaith alliance dedicated to peacebuilding in East Tennessee.

Religions for Peace USA is thrilled to expand to Knoxville, and we only hope this will be the beginning of an even greater statewide and nationwide network.  The people of Knoxville have shown great energy and passion for this work.  We are simply honored to join what is already stirring in the Knoxville community.

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