Tatarstan, A Model for Interfaith Dialogue
Trent Gilliss, online editor

The most unexpected connections are often made through the most unlikely sources. A couple of days ago, a friend of mine (whose name you might see in our photo credits from time to time) sent me an e-mail asking for advice on restaurants where he could entertain some diplomats from the republic of Tatarstan.

Now, Marc’s got a sly, subtle, playful humor. I immediately thought he was joking and made a play on words — Tatar, as in cream of tartar or steak tartare, and a dining establishment. But, I know that he also served in Turkmenistan as a Peace Corps volunteer and that the NGO he works for conducts a fair amount of business in that area of the world where most countries end in “stan.”

A quick search revealed that Tatarstan is an actual place, and part of the Russian Federation. My ignorance shining brightly, once again.

In the most delightful way, I also happened upon a number of reports detailing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to Kazan, its capital. And, more serendipitously, an article from Radio Free Europe reported she said that “the Russian republic of Tatarstan could serve as a model for tolerance and coexistence between Muslims and Christians.”

Our current show, "Curiosity over Assumptions," highlights the work of two women who are leading a Muslim-Jewish interfaith group in Los Angeles, and might serve as a new model for this type of dialogue within local communities. As we look domestically for people coming together with their religious identities intact, it’s helpful to be reminded that other countries in unimaginable areas have wrestled for centuries with these issues and have much to teach if we are only aware — and do a Google search.

(photo: U.S Secretary of State Clinton visited the Kol Sharif mosque and later the Annunciation Cathedral in Kazan on October 14, 2009.)

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