Christianity, Judaism and Islam Go on a Road Trip in Metro Atlanta

By Smith, Mary Beth | Momentum, September/October 2008 | Go to article overview

Christianity, Judaism and Islam Go on a Road Trip in Metro Atlanta


Smith, Mary Beth, Momentum


Three suitcases tell the stories of three, Georgia schools

Peace be with you, Shalom, Assalamu Alaikum.

One God, three religions, three suitcases.

The idea behind the project was simple. Pack a suitcase with items related to your history, faith and culture. Make a video that explains the items in the suitcase and include a "day in the life of" video from your school and share it with students of another religion.

It was all part of a project funded by NCEA's Elementary Schools Department to foster classroom activities on social justice themes. Each grant recipient receives $750 to carry out a specific project.

The initial challenge of this project was to find a Jewish and Muslim school in this multicultural city interested in embarking on a journey of sorts. Queen of Angels Catholic School invited the Dar Un Noor School, an Islamic school, and the Epstein School, a Jewish day school, to participate in a unique project to introduce students to the major religions of the Western World, to foster friendship and dialogue among young people of all faiths, to encourage them to be committed to religious tolerance and understanding and to seek peace in their interactions with others. Faith on Wheels, also known as "the traveling suitcase," started rolling in August 2007.

Epstein School was eager to participate. Dar Un Noor expressed interest but had to decline because of other commitments already scheduled for the school year. However, they suggested the Sister Clara Mohammed School (SCMS), an Islamic K through 12 program.

Ramadan, Islam's holiest season, began September 13 and it wasn't until after sundown on a Thursday night later that month that the good news arrived that SCMS had accepted the invitation to participate in Faith on Wheels. Shahidah Sharif and the students in her Islamic studies class already had begun discussing ways students could share their perspective of the Islamic faith with others. Myrna Rubel, assistant principal at the Epstein School (ES), and her middle school students were enthused about the project too.

What Goes in the Suitcase?

Queen of Angels Catholic School teachers embraced the cross-curricular project and eighth graders began brainstorming about what the Catholie suitcase should contain. There were religion lessons to prepare, video techniques to master and letters to be written to millennial friends at SCMS and ES.

The NCEA grant was used to purchase the suitcases and storage devices (DVDs, CDs, videotapes and USB drives) and to cover the cost of transportation when the suitcases were rotated to the schools.

While one objective of the project was to learn about the Muslim and Jewish faiths, the Queen of Angles students broadened their Catholic knowledge in the process. The video is the student's perspective of Catholic life and reflects a people united in faith. Through it the students learned about sacramentáis, beliefs and the many ways Catholics express their faith. These students are the church of tomorrow. As a part of the world, they are called to teach justice and peace by their example and redeem the world through Christ's love. If there is to be peace in the future, it is our job as educators today to ingrain the idea of peace in the minds and hearts of our students.

Of course, during the production cycle, there were re-takes and outtakes and some segments will forever remain in the nebulous cyberspace of the editor. The students learned about copyright laws, professional video journalism, conduct in front of and behind the camera as well as lessons in human nature and the tendency to act (or in some cases act up) when there's a camera in the room.

The Catholic video became a masterpiece crafted by the hands of so many. It is a powerful teaching tool for the "YouTube" generation and the middle school students took ownership of it by writing, directing and producing. The video appealed to all students in the school (K-8) and other grade levels requested an opportunity to show the video in their religion classes.

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Christianity, Judaism and Islam Go on a Road Trip in Metro Atlanta
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