In a world often divided by religious differences and geopolitical tensions, the efforts of the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom shine as a beacon of hope and unity. Founded by Atiya Aftab, a Muslim, and Sheryl Olitzky, a Jewish woman, this organization has been dedicated to fostering relationships and understanding between Muslim and Jewish women. Their extraordinary work is being recognized with the prestigious Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award, presented by St. Ambrose University in Davenport. The award not only celebrates their achievements but also underscores the power of interfaith dialogue in creating lasting peace.
What started as a small group of 12 women on the East Coast of the United States has blossomed into a vibrant sisterhood that spans across countries and cultures. The Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom began with the simple goal of bringing Muslim and Jewish women together for dialogue and connection. Over the years, it has evolved into a powerful force for public advocacy, celebrating life cycle events, sharing holiday traditions, and fostering genuine friendships.
Bridge of Understanding
Atiya Aftab and Sheryl Olitzky’s partnership symbolizes the essence of the Sisterhood’s mission. Their commitment to building bridges of understanding demonstrates the transformative potential of interfaith relationships. Archbishop Thomas R. Zinkula, who will present the Pacem in Terris Award, emphasizes that their work aligns with Pope Francis’s call for a culture of encounter and dialogue as the path to true peace.
Recognizing a Legacy of Peace
The Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award is a notable recognition, placing Aftab and Olitzky in the esteemed company of past recipients like Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Dorothy Day, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Their names will be inscribed alongside those who have made indelible contributions to peace and justice globally.
Changing Attitudes Through Dialogue
The power of the Sisterhood’s efforts lies not only in the relationships it fosters but also in the broader impact on society. Sheryl Olitzky’s extensive research in interfaith dialogue led her to identify organizations dedicated to peace building, including the Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award committee. The award serves as a platform to share their commitment to bridge building, dialogue, and peace work, inspiring positive shifts in attitudes and actions.
Breaking Down Walls, Building Bridges
Accepting the award in a public ceremony is a meaningful step for the co-founders. Sheryl Olitzky believes that the recognition will amplify the groundbreaking work of the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom. By doing so, they aim to dismantle walls of hate and ignorance, replacing them with bridges of empathy, respect, and understanding.
Journey of Transformation
Atiya Aftab, an attorney, educator, and activist, expresses her excitement and humility in receiving the award. She speaks passionately about the Sisterhood’s vision to spread love, peace, and understanding across faiths. Despite the challenging geopolitics that often surround Muslim-Jewish relations, Aftab emphasizes the importance of establishing relationships of trust and love before addressing complex issues.
From Poland to a Global Movement
The co-founders’ paths crossed in 2010 after Sheryl Olitzky’s transformative visit to Poland. Witnessing the devastation caused by hate and prejudice compelled her to take action against such destructive forces. Her collaboration with Atiya Aftab emerged from a desire to create a safe space for Muslim and Jewish women to engage in dialogue and connection.
Empowering Change, One Sister at a Time
Atiya Aftab’s background, including her Catholic connections, underscores the universal nature of the Sisterhood’s work. She believes that every individual possesses the capacity to contribute to peace and justice, and even the smallest good deed can create a ripple effect that changes the world.
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As the award ceremony approaches, Sheryl Olitzky envisions a transformative experience for participants. The ceremony’s impact extends beyond the event itself, countering negative stereotypes and fostering hope for a more peaceful world. Through the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom’s commitment to interfaith dialogue, the boundaries that divide people are slowly replaced with bridges of harmony and understanding, guiding them toward a future of genuine peace.