From Chicago’s South Side to an Audience with the Pope: A Message of Unity

An unforgettable hug from Pope Francis is only one of the many connections that Zakat Foundation Community Center Chicago (ZFCCC) Director Laila Muhammad made during the Focolare Movement interfaith conference, Together Towards the Unity of the Human Family in mid-March in Rome.

In between enlightening presentations by members of the Focolare Movement, Muslims, Christians, Jews, Baha’is and members of the Shanti Ashram, Ms. Muhammad met and made friends from around the world, all of whom were eager to find areas of common purpose.

“I met a rabbi from Argentina who has 1,000 families in her synagogue,” Ms. Muhammad said. “She was telling me how she works a lot with women, and I shared about the work we do, mentoring mothers and grandmothers who are going back to school and reaching out for a better life. This rabbi is working to empower women there like we are here.”

A Sikh presenter who has developed a values-based curriculum and a French imam whose interfaith parade channels love and tolerance into the city of Cannes every year also energized Ms. Muhammad, who brought new ideas and a refreshed spirit back to her work on Chicago’s South Side.

“Chicago’s South Side news is so full of violence, shootings and killings,” Ms. Muhammad said, “It feels good to share some good news!”

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