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20,000 Dialogues

20,000 Dialogues is a nationwide campaign to bring people of different faiths together using films about Muslims to stimulate discussion and promote understanding. It brings the concept of interfaith dialogue into the hands of ordinary people who want to make a positive difference. 20,000 Dialogues is a Unity Production Foundation (UPF) project in cooperation with Connecting Cultures, LLC.

Interfaith dialogue has never been more necessary or more important than it is today. When you think of the term “interfaith dialogue,” you usually think of religious leaders like ministers, rabbis and imams. 20,000 Dialogues adds another model. It is intended to reach the average person.

At its heart is the idea of democratizing dialogue through a “bottom up” approach that gives any interested individual the materials and tools needed to host and/or participate in small, grassroots generated discussions. It is an empowering project for those looking to get away from the helplessness of the headlines and do something positive in the world.

Why Muslims? Why Now?

At a time when the notion of a ‘Muslim-Western’ Clash of Civilizations has become commonplace, it is important to realize that humanity is at a crossroads.

Will we begin moving in a more peaceful direction, or will the forces of conflict, misunderstanding, fear, and animosity continue to tear our world into fighting factions? This is a challenge that must be addressed at many levels. 20,000 Dialogues seeks to address it at the grassroots, where people live and work. It will strengthen understanding and help build relationships across faiths, even when people disagree.

There are millions of American Muslims, who are friends, colleagues and neighbors. This project uses a film to bring them in contact with people of other faiths together to stimulate discussion and positive action.

The nominal goal of each dialogue is to foster relationships between the group participants, create a forum where knowledge and opinions are shared, and encourage greater understanding about the subject matter. We hope that participants continue the discussions on their own, form relationships, and find ways of working together.

A Little Background

After our first film, Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet was broadcast on PBS and then released on DVD, we saw that it was frequently used in formal interfaith efforts. Churches, university groups and other institutions would screen it and they liked it because it encouraged debate and discussion on the film’s issues. As the film’s producers we were invited to talk about it all over the country, and would often be invited to speak on a panel with religious leaders or academic scholars.

We saw that grassroots interests were spreading as well. People would tell us that their book club screened it, a group of college dorm-mates would watch it together, a family would watch it after they saw something on the news about Muslims, and so forth. All of these experiences made us realize that if we can make the film available and give people some guidelines for discussion, it can help promote positive dialogue. The project was then beta tested with the help of the Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington which further developed the model.

What films have been selected to watch and why?

Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet is a PBS Documentary film that not only tells the story about the Prophet Muhammad, but also how his life influences the lives of American Muslims today.

Cities of Light charts a relatively unknown history about the rise and fall of one of the lost civilizations of the world- Islamic Spain. At its peak, it lit the Dark Ages of Europe with science and philosophy, poetry, art and architecture. It marked the Golden Age of the Jews as well as the Muslims, and eventually helped spark the European Renaissance. Its strength was its religious and cultural diversity.

What are the requirements to start a Dialogue?

  • Have a minimum of 5 participants of different faiths who will watch the film together and discuss it. A group only consisting of Muslims is not acceptable.
  • Identify the date when the dialogue will take place.
  • Make a good faith effort to have a Muslim participate. See (Invite a Muslim to Participate) for ideas.

I believe in interfaith dialogue but can’t meet the requirements. How can I get the films?

You can always purchase the DVDs on our website. Visit www.upf.tv and click on Shop. It’s a very small investment.

Is there a cost to participate?

Currently, there is no cost to participate in this project, what you pay is with your time and commitment to be a part of a dialogue group. It is required that you follow the guidelines.

As long as funds are available, we will continue to provide the DVD at no cost. After that, the DVD will be available for purchase.

Resources

Download the Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet Dialogue Packet at www.20000dialogues.org/downloads/Muhammad_Legacy-Dialogues_Packet.pdf.

Download the Cities of Light: The Rise and Fall of Islamic Spain Dialogue Packet at www.20000dialogues.org/downloads/Cities_of_Light-20k_Dialogues_Packet.pdf.

Resource Link: www.20000dialogues.org

Lobna “Luby” Ismail
dialogues@upf.tv
P.O. Box 6175, Silver Spring MD 20906

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