Cover of the Georgian edition of Interfaith Heroes
It’s funny how a little idea can spread. A book that was initially just a collection of stories for some friends has just been translated into another language on the other side of the world. Friends in the Republic of Georgia, led by Rusudan Gotsiridze, a Baptist woman bishop, have published the Georgian version of Interfaith Heroes.
The project started very small. I’ve been involved in an interfaith group in the Detroit area. I wanted to share some of my Baptist heritage with my interfaith friends and colleagues, especially related to Roger Williams and the work of religious liberty. Having seen some of the areas where people suffer from religious violence—sometimes Christians persecuted by people of other faiths, but sometimes Christians doing the killing and destruction—I wanted to lift up people who could be examples for alternative ways of living out our various faiths. I was just going to copy some stories to share within our little group, but the stories moved people so much that the collection quickly grew to a book. In January 2008 Interfaith Heroes was published.
The project picked up momentum as I learned about even more people who crossed lines of religious difference to work together to build a better world, shelter someone from violence or strive for religious liberty. In January 2009 Interfaith Heroes 2 was published.
I took the books to the Republic of Georgia where Baptists have suffered violence and property destruction at the hands of Orthodox militant radicals. The Baptists have been leading figures in the ecumenical and interfaith efforts in Georgia. I held a number of workshops on the themes of religious diversity and tolerance and dealing with persecution through nonviolent means. The Interfaith Heroes books were received with great excitement as there are so few resources to deal with these issues.
Rusudan asked if the books could be translated into Georgian. The more we talked, the more the idea was shaped into a new resource. On April 1st the new book was made public. It features heroes from the two English versions as well as some Georgian interfaith heroes that provide positive role models for dealing with people of other faiths within Georgia’s own history. Rusudan asked me to write a special introduction for the Georgian edition since I have spent quite a bit of time in Georgia and know the challenges people are facing.
In the Georgian introduction I bridged from the stories of early Georgian Christian martyrs to an unXpected Xperience from the 2005 Xtreme Team to Georgia: “During one of my trips to Georgia I was in a Baptist Church for a service to commemorate the victims of a terrorist bombing in London. Gathered together in the service were Orthodox Christians, Catholic Christians and Protestant Christians. They shared together with Muslims and Jews. All were Georgians, and these Georgians of many faiths were joined by people of various faiths from other nations as well. Together they mourned. Together they raised up a vision of humanity that spoke of the best of all their faiths and the best of human aspirations. Together they drove back the spirit of violence with their hope and faith. Now is the time for us to meet in hope, faith and courage, to be the interfaith heroes needed for this hour in Georgia and the wider world.”
This is how some of our mission takes place. We encounter people both at home and in various global settings. Ideas are shared from one place that spark work in another place. People take what we share but make it their own. They take the gifts we share and appropriate them for their context in a way that speaks even deeper than we imagined. I rejoice with the Georgian Baptists as they make Interfaith Heroes a work they share with Georgians of many faith traditions. It is part of their witness for peace in a place where the name of God has been used to bless violence.
Anybody who wants to order a copy of Interfaith Heroes or Interfaith Heroes 2 can contact me through this website or at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also order the books through amazon.com, Barnes & Noble or Borders. Let me know if you want a Georgian edition, too, though that might be a bit harder to get!