When I write about interfaith understanding, as I do frequently, it's often in the hope that people of different faith traditions will at least talk with one another so they can begin to move away from ignorance and fear.
That happened this past Sunday, and children were the leaders.
When eighth-grade classmates Dahlia Cukierkorn (Jewish), Emily Sobba (Protestant) and Holley Kern (Catholic) realized that their friend and classmate Rania Bouzahzah (Muslim) was suffering from cancer, they visited her in her home. But they wanted to do more, partly because Rania's father, a cancer researcher at an area health care facility, is about to lose his job when a grant supporting his work expires this month.
So at the suggestion of Emily's mother, the girls set up a simple lemonade stand in their neighborhood at 123rd and Walmer to raise funds for the family and to increase awareness of a crowd-funding site created to help the family.
And they got the word out via social media and in other ways.
Then they sold lemonade. And more lemonade. And even more. When the four hours of selling ended, they had collected about $1,200. By the end of the day, donors also had contributed some $1,500 more to the fund at the "Go Fund Me" site. It didn't matter that each of the girls came from a different religious background. What mattered was that they were friends and they knew what friends do for each other.
When I stopped by the lemonade stand Sunday afternoon, I spoke with Rania's parents, Boumediene Bouzahzah and his wife Laaouej Naima. (The photo at top shows, from left to right, Boumediene, Emily, Dahlia and Laaouej. That's Dahlia's mother, Denisse Cukierkorn, in the right background.) They said Rania had been diagnosed with cancer Sept. 17 and has undergone several surgeries and procedures that haven't helped much. They're now trying a different treatment.
"She cries all the time," her father said. "She says, 'I want to run. I want to play with my friends.'"
Bouzahzah's family originally was from Morocco, but he grew up in Belgium. To support his family, which includes an 18-year-old son who is in his first year at Johnson County Community College, he said he's willing to take almost any kind of job. If you know of an employment possibility, you may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And you may give thanks for an example of interfaith cooperation shown to us by 13-year-olds.
(The girls are planning another lemonade stand fund-raiser for Sunday, June 12. I'll have details about time and place here on the blog when I get them. I'll also post the information to Facebook, so friend me there. Update: Just got this YouTube invitation to the next lemonade stand: From 1 to 4 p.m. on Sunday, June 12, at Overland Trails Middle School, 6201 W. 133rd St., Overland Park, Kan. Hope you can be there.)
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WHY PAYING ATTENTION TO RELIGION GLOBALLY MAKES SENSE
Interfaith understanding is vital even -- and maybe especially -- in international geopolitics. Secretary of State John Kerry recently said his department would be paying more attention to relations among religions, especially in the Middle East. It's the right thing to do, though there are some difficulties to overcome, as this Huffington Post piece wisely points out.