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The article below originally appeared online for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazatte and is written by Christie Storm. Sophia Said is a graduate of the Clinton School.
Two women, a Christian and a Muslim, are hoping their friendship will inspire others to move past fear and get to know one another. They’ve started a Christian Muslim Dialogue program and are speaking at churches and mosques and to other groups about each faith’s views on Jesus, women, violence and prayer and meditation.
The Rev. Susan Sims Smith is an Episcopal priest and executive director of the Interfaith Center, an outreach ministry of St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church in Little Rock. She and Sophia Said, a Muslim who serves as associate director of the center, kicked off the dialogue program last month at St. Margaret’s as a new outreach of the center. They will be speaking during a four-week program at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Little Rock next month and invite the public to participate.
They offer the program in many forms — a one-hour talk, a half-day discussion or in four weekly sessions. They’ll have a short session with the United Methodist Women of First United Methodist Church in Russellville in November, and will also speak at the start of International Week at Arkansas Tech University. They’ve also been invited to speak to the Daughters of the King group at Christ Episcopal Church in Little Rock and are hoping for more invitations.
The two women met a few years ago and bonded over a shared interest in meditation and dreams as a way to connect with God.
“I thought, ‘I’ve just met my sister,’” Sims Smith said about their initial conversation. She said their friendship has been a gift — “unexpected, deeply respectful and curious.”
They’ve learned through experience that cultivating a deeper relationship with someone of a different faith isn’t easy. There is often fear on both sides — fear of the unknown, fear that becoming friends will somehow compromise their own faith. Sims Smith said one of the first times she invited Said to speak with her at a Christian church she was asked by several people, “Where did you find such a nice Muslim?”
Getting past stereotypes and misunderstandings, as well as recent religious conflicts around the world, particularly involving the Islamic State, prompted the women to begin this new dialogue program.
“We are living in a time that antagonism of faith is becoming worse and worse,” Said stated. “It’s really fueling hatred of other faiths.”
A friend of Said’s told her about how his children were taunted at school after the Boston Marathon bombing last year. Such incidents are common, she said.
“It’s one of the reasons Susan and I are doing this important work,” she said. “Someone has to do something.”
Sims Smith said they hope to reach beyond the misunderstandings of each faith, but to do so they realize they must address what’s happening in the world today.
“Christians seem to be really uneasy and many don’t feel Muslims are coming out strongly enough about saying that ISIS and other groups are not reflective of the core of Islam,” Sims Smith said. “There’s a lot of condemnation now. We need to articulate clearly to change minds. At the 9/11 service we stood on the stage and said a prayer where a member of each faith admitted to mistakes their faiths had made. Violence exists in both faiths and we need to address these issues before they can even listen to us.”
Said has been speaking to groups in Arkansas for the past four years as part of the Interfaith Center’s work, and she said her hope is to share her experience with the Muslim faith and to find what the faiths have in common. The native of Palestine said she was drawn closer to Sims Smith through their shared love of Jesus.
“I heard and saw and felt her love for Jesus Christ,” she said. “I thought how can this Christian woman love Jesus more than me? I love him and wait for his return. … If we all look more on what is beautiful and common in our faith it will bring us closer and these relationships will allow both faiths to come together and fight religious intolerance.”
During the Christian Muslim Dialogue, Sims Smith said, the women don’t avoid difficult questions or topics.
“We do speak very directly about the difference in our faiths,” she said. “In the areas we are the same we celebrate that, but we don’t shy away from our differences. We don’t want to pour all the colors in the same can of paint and say we’re all the same. We want to find a way to help each other deepen our faiths.”
Both women said the goal isn’t to dilute anyone’s beliefs just for the sake of getting along, and they acknowledge that sometimes the conversation can be uncomfortable.
“Fear is the big thing to overcome,” Sims Smith said. “When you articulate fear there are going to be hurt feelings, but we have to learn how to tolerate discomfort to grow.”
John Wills, administrator of the Arkansas House of Prayer, an interfaith place of prayer on the grounds of St. Margaret’s, said opportunities for such dialogue are important.
“When tough questions arise, this is essential,” he said.
At the House of Prayer he has seen an interest in more interfaith dialogue, with people starting to ask questions about how to behave or interact with those of a different faith.
“People are waking up and seeing it’s not just me and my faith,” he said.
The Christian Muslim Dialogue at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral will feature four one-hour programs beginning at 6 p.m. Nov. 5 and continuing on Nov. 12, 19 and Dec. 3. The church is at 310 W. 17th St. and the program will be held in Morrison Hall. Information is available online at trinitylittlerock.org.
Anyone interested in sponsoring the program at their house of worship, organization, business or group can contact the Interfaith Center at firstname.lastname@example.org. Information is also online at interfaith.itssm.org.
The initiative is a philanthropic endeavor established to provide college and graduate students at the University of Arkansas and the William J. Clinton School of Public Service with the opportunity to engage in substantive international work in the areas of economic empowerment, human rights, and political participation.
“Mack and I began the McLarty Global Fellows Program as way to support the important work being done to promote cultural diplomacy around the world. We are pleased that through this program we are able to build on the extraordinary professional experiences and public service endeavors we have shared over many years in Washington D.C. to benefit students studying in our home state of Arkansas,” Donna McLarty said.
Donna and Mack McLarty are graduates of the University of Arkansas.
Earlier this year, McLarty Global Fellows announced a research fellowship at the Institute for Women, Peace and Security at Georgetown University to benefit one student from the Clinton School of Public Service in Little Rock. The fellowship is named in honor of Hillary Clinton, a longtime friend of the McLarty family. Mack McLarty served as President Bill Clinton’s first White House Chief of Staff and Donna McLarty has worked with Hillary Clinton on a variety of important issues in Washington and Arkansas.
Also this year, McLarty Global Fellows announced a partnership with Vital Voices Global Partnership, an international non-governmental organization focused on women’s economic empowerment around the world. Donna McLarty is one of the initial co-founders, building on the idea that then-First Lady Hillary Clinton put forth in her 1995 speech on women’s rights in Beijing. The partnership provides three fellowships to students from the Clinton School of Public Service, Sam M. Walton College of Business, and J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Arkansas to work at the headquarters of Vital Voices in Washington, D.C. The fellowships began this fall.
For those attending public programs at the Clinton School, be sure and check out the recently installed 10-year exhibit in the lobby display case.
Volunteer Bob Gee’s collection of signed Clinton School graduation programs (2007-2014) are featured, as is a copy of a 2001 letter from then University of Arkansas President Dr. Alan Sugg providing an update on the Clinton School three years before it opened in 2004. Also included is a 2004 letter from Bank of America about the Sturgis Trust grant for the Clinton School of Public Service, which provided funding for the renovation of the Choctaw Station, now Sturgis Hall.
Also on display are books on the Recommended Reading list from the Class of 2016 and maps showing where students are currently working on Arkansas team-based projects and where students served internationally in 2014.
*Reserve your seats by emailing email@example.com or calling 501-683-5239.
Legacies & Lunch: Justice Troy Poteete, executive director of the National Trail of Tears Association
Wednesday, November 5, 2014 at 12:00 pm (CALS Ron Robinson Theater) *In partnership with the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies
- Troy Poteete was appointed to the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court by Chief Chad Smith in 2007 and is the executive director of the National Trail of Tears Association, an organization he helped found. Justice Poteete also founded the Historical Society in Webbers Falls, Okla., served as executive director of the Cherokee Nation Historical Society, and was a delegate to the Cherokee Nation Constitutional Convention. In 2000, Justice Poteete was appointed executive director of the Arkansas Riverbed Authority, a tribal entity jointly created by the Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Cherokee Nations to administer their interests in the 96-mile section of the Arkansas River between Muskogee, Okla. and Fort Smith, Ark.
“Welcome Home, George Washington,” Dean Norton
Wednesday, November 5, 2014 at 6:00 pm (Sturgis Hall) *Book signing to follow
- Dean Norton is the director of horticulture at George Washington’s Mount Vernon home. For more than 150 years, people have studied, researched, and dug the earth for clues helping to make the home of George Washington one of the most accurately restored 18th century estates in America. The beauty, the use, and the importance of Mount Vernon’s gardens and landscape will be discussed, as well as preservation over the years with a focus on the most recently restored pleasure garden. Norton’s presentation is an informative and entertaining look at the gardening world of George Washington.
“30 years of Main Street Arkansas”
Thursday, November 6, 2014 at 12:00 pm (Sturgis Hall)
- Patrice Frey is the first President and CEO of the National Main Street Center. The National Main Street Center, Inc. is an extension of the 33-year-old Main Street program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which uses historic preservation as a tool for economic development in downtown and neighborhood commercial districts. More than 2,000 communities have participated in the Main Street program since its inception, leading to more than 235,000 building rehabilitation projects and the creation of nearly 475,000 jobs in those cities and towns.
Sharon Isbin, Grammy Award-winning guitarist
Friday, November 7, 2014 at 12:00 pm (Sturgis Hall) *In partnership with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra
- Sharon Isbin is a Grammy Award-winning classical guitarist and the founder of the Guitar department at the Juilliard School in New York City. She is the author of “Classical Guitar Answer Book” and the director of the guitar department at the Aspen Music Festival. She is also the winner of the Guitar Player magazine’s Best Classical Guitarist award, First Prize winner of the Toronto Guitar 75 competition, and has received numerous other awards. Isbin has appeared as a soloist with over 170 orchestras and has commissioned more concerti than any other guitarist. She is a multi-Grammy Award-winning artist and has performed for the memorial tribute at Ground Zero, was featured on the soundtrack of Martin Scorsese’s film “The Departed,” and has performed at the White House by invitation of President Obama and the First Lady. Isbin will speak and perform with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra
“The Surprising Power of Liberating Structures”
Monday, November 10, 2014 at 12:00 pm (Sturgis Hall)
- Liberating Structures shift the way we meet, plan, decide, and relate to one another. They quickly foster lively participation and, by making it easy to include and unleash everyone, transform the performance of any group. Used alone or in combinations, they are very versatile over a wide range of applications from helping to shape everyday solutions to developing robust strategies. Experience a few of the Liberating Structures and learn from the co-developers, Henri Lipmanowicz and Keith McCandless, about what they are, how they are utilized, and why they are so effective.
“Daisy Bates 100th Birthday Celebration” with Ernie Green of the Little Rock Nine
Tuesday, November 11, 2014, at 6:00 pm (Sturgis Hall)
- Daisy Bates was an American civil rights activist, publisher, journalist, and lecturer who played a leading role in the Little Rock Integration Crisis of 1957. Ernest ‘Ernie’ Green was one of the nine African-American students who integrated Central High School in Little Rock and the first of the nine to graduate. Daisy Bates would be 100 years old on November 11th. Green is the managing director of public finance for Lehman Brothers in Washington, D.C., has served as the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employment and Training during President Carter’s administration, Chairman of the African Development Foundation under President Clinton, and Secretary of Education, Richard W. Riley, appointed him Chairman of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Capital Financing Advisory Board.
“Opening the Clinton School: Reflections Looking Back”
Wednesday, November 12, 2014 at 12:00 pm (Sturgis Hall)
- To commemorate the tenth anniversary of the Clinton School’s inception, join us for a panel discussion on the founding of the school. The panel members include the founding Dean and former U.S. Senator David Pryor, Clinton School staff member Dianne Kelly, founding Associate Dean Dr. Tom Bruce, and Pat Torvestad, who led much of the school’s early planning effort for the University of Arkansas System. The panel will take a look at the early planning efforts of the school, which opened in 2004.
“Corporations Are Not People,” Jeff Clements
Wednesday, November 19, 2014, at 6:00 pm (Sturgis Hall) *Book Signing to follow
- Jeff Clements is the co-founder and chair of the board of “Free Speech for People,” a national non-partisan campaign to overturn the Citizens United v. FEC case, challenge excessive corporate power, and to strengthen American democracy and republican self-government. Clements co-founded “Free Speech For People” in 2009 after representing several public-interest organizations with a Supreme Court amicus brief in the Citizens United case. He is the author of “Corporations Are Not People: Reclaiming Democracy From Big Money And Global Corporations.”
“Cochran vs. McDaniel: The 2014 Mississippi Republican Primary,” Austin Barbour
Friday, November 21, 2014, at 12:00 p.m. (Sturgis Hall)
- Austin Barbour is the nephew of former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour and a key strategist for Senator Thad Cochran’s successful primary defeat of challenger State Senator Chris McDaniel. Most recently, Barbour has been recognized as one of the nation’s top fundraisers through his positions as one of the National Finance Chairmen for Romney for President in 2012 and a member of the National Finance committee for the Republican Governor’s Association. Barbour runs a consultancy based in Jackson, Miss. with his brother, Henry.
*Reserve your seats by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 501-683-5239.
A former secretary of the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department under President Bill Clinton has chosen Northwest Arkansas to start his new initiative to foster immigrant integration in communities.
Henry Cisneros, who participated in Clinton’s first presidential campaign and had a hand in writing the speech for Clinton’s second inaugural address, was appointed by Clinton to head HUD in 1992 and stayed in that role until 1997.
He’s now the founder of the Cisneros Center for New Americans, executive chairman of CityView and co-chairman of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Immigration Task Force and Housing Commission.
Northwest Arkansas — specifically Springdale and Rogers — was chosen as the site to start his American Dream Initiative, which employs three fellows who will work to identify the needs of the immigrant community, determine what the service gaps are and facilitate with immigrants’ integration into the American lifestyle.
The three are Jennifer Aguirre of Houston, Jessica Boyd of Little Rock and Jacob Perry of Fayetteville.
“Our objective is to leave things permanently in place that wouldn’t have happened if we weren’t there,” Cisneros said Friday in response to a question from a woman who was one of dozens to attend Cisneros’ noon speech at the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service.
“Imagine Northwest Arkansas as the prototype for the country on how a rural community that’s growing into urban addresses this issue and becomes a model on how you integrate immigrants. Because that same model can play out across hundreds and thousands of other places across the nation.”
Cisneros is the grandson of an immigrant and in 1981 became the first Hispanic mayor of a major U.S. city — San Antonio.
His talk Friday focused on both the politics and economics of immigration in the country and the real-life situations immigrants face daily. He spoke of the millions of immigrants already living in the U.S. and how the government is approaching them in terms of legislation.
“We know the immigrant population is going to be large, but is it going to be large, undereducated, undercompensated, alienated and a negative in the American future? Or is it going to be large, a source of youthful energy, a source of creative ideas?” Cisneros said. “We haven’t figured out how we are going to integrate these immigrants in the ways that matter. In the educational system, in the development of talent and so forth.”
There’s two parts to doing that successfully, he told the group, and that’s having welcoming communities with the appropriate resources and then immigrants agreeing to do their part. Immigrants must agree to learn English and the civic traditions of this country, as well as the law and what it takes to be a productive citizen, Cisneros said.
A Clinton school student questioned where Cisneros drew the line between integration and assimilation. Cisneros said immigrants are capable of adding a level of understanding without losing their identity.
“I will carry my home country in my heart, but I understand now I am here. I commit to the obligations of life in the United States and how to advance my family and how to contribute to society. That’s the big picture, the over-arching logic,” he said.
Cisneros spoke in Fayetteville on Thursday about the initiative.
After its pilot program in Northwest Arkansas, the American Dream Initiative is planned to expand to other communities that have experienced significant growth in immigrant population and where immigrant services aren’t fully developed.
University of Arkansas sociology professor Bill Schwab said Northwest Arkansas is the perfect place to start the program, noting that he’s done a lot of the groundwork in his one-year study of the area’s immigrant population. He said the area is more diverse than people realize, adding that 54 languages are spoken and there is not only a Hispanic immigrant population, but there are immigrants from the Marshall Islands, Vietnam, Cambodia and India.
“All this growth has occurred relatively recently, in the last 20 years. This program specifically focuses on communities like ours,” he said. “… There’s been this dramatic increase in immigrant population and it turns out it’s a welcoming community. I’ve heard that from across the board. And they have a high probability of being successful here where there’s Wal-Mart and Tyson, who are partners in seeing [the American Dream Initiative] is a successful program.”
This article was produced by and first appeared on ArkansasBusiness.com
Thomas F. “Mack” and Donna McLarty have launched an initiative to bolster international engagement and participation though a few academic partnerships.
The McLartys announced the McLarty Global Fellows Program, which is a philanthropic endeavor that will provide college and graduate students at the University of Arkansas and the William J. Clinton School of Public Service with an opportunity to conduct in international work in the areas of economic empowerment, human rights and political participation.
The program was established in 2011 and is based in Little Rock and Washington, D.C.
“Mack and I began the McLarty Global Fellows Program as a way to support the important work being done to promote cultural diplomacy around the world,” Donna McLarty said in a news release. “We are pleased that though this program we are able to build on the extraordinary professional experiences and public service endeavors we have shared over many years in Washington, D.C., to benefit students studying in our home state of Arkansas.”
Also this year, the program has announced a research fellowship at the Institute for Women Peace & Security at Georgetown University, and a partnership with Vital Voices Global Partnership to provide three fellowships to students from the Clinton School of Public Services, Sam M. Walton College of Business and the J. William Fulbright College of Arts & Sciences at the University of Arkansas to work at the headquarters of Vital Voices in D.C.
“We are eager to share our experiences and to extend opportunities for learning and service to others; to build bridges between Arkansas and the wider world; and to inspire young people to think globally, in our interdependent world community,” Mack McLarty said in the release.
Clinton School students (left) Anna Applebaum, a graduate ofWashington University in St. Louis and (right) Tshering Yudon, a graduate of Middlebury College are serving as McLarty Global Fellows with Vital Voices Global Partnership in Washington D.C. this semester. Vital Voices identifies, trains and empowers emerging international women leaders. Applbeaum and Yudon were joined at the Vital Voices offices by Donna McLarty, whose family sponsors the fellowships and Clinton School Dean Skip Rutherford. McLarty was also one of the Vital
For his final capstone project, University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service and concurrent UALR William H. Bowen School of Law student Chris Morgan of El Dorado, Arkansas partnered with Executive Offices at Heifer International and the organization’s in-house counsel department to conduct a comprehensive, in-depth feasibility study to assist in determining whether Heifer should begin a public fundraising operation through the organization’s offices in China.
Heifer International is often applauded for its domestic fundraising efforts with a great deal of attention focused on marketing campaigns in the United States, including the widely successful gift catalogue that has been a part of its fundraising campaigns for decades. Within the past 12-15 years, Heifer has expanded its fundraising to several international markets.
Due to the success of these international fundraising efforts, Heifer is investigating other countries in which it may fundraise. Before investing in such large-scale fundraising, crucial internal stakeholders and decision-makers wanted to be well-informed of factors in China that may affect a fundraising campaign such as market factors, laws regulating the nonprofit sector, and possible opportunities or threats to fundraising.
Morgan’s findings are a result of interviews and data collection in the Netherlands, South Africa, Hong Kong SAR, Ireland, and China. He also provided an analysis of the legal environment and legal constraints to NGO operations in China, a capacity assessment of Heifer’s offices in China, and a summarization of a market analysis commissioned by Heifer in 2005 with updated statistics.
“The work done by Chris gives us a broader understanding of the local environment and the emerging philanthropic sector in China. This work is key to help guide our future investments and our support to our counterparts in China,” said Meredith Rolf, Director of Strategic Initiatives in Heifer International’s Executive Offices. “Chris’s specific set of skills and interests allowed for a unique analysis that will certainly contribute to Heifer’s work to end hunger and poverty.”