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January 2015 News Events

Sarah Ahmed to speak on interfaith dialogue

Pax Christi Spokane and Gonzaga University are co-sponsoring Sarah AK Ahmed of the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East (FRRME) to speak on the “Role of Religious Reconciliation for Stability in Iraq” at 7 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 29, at Wolff Auditorium in Jepson Hall.

Pax Christi Spokane, the local chapter of the national and international Catholic peace and justice organization, invited Sarah and Mustafa Mahmood, a Gonzaga student from Iraq who volunteered with FRRME last summer to speak.

Pax Christi Spokane seeks to raise awareness of the complex situation in Iraq, which affects people not only globally but also locally, especially related to international students at Gonzaga from the Middle East and those in our Spokane community who have been displaced by the conflict in Iraq. 

“We hope the community can build a more compassionate, inclusive climate around the cultural and religious diversity,” said Anne Bosserman, SNJM, of Pax Christi.

The foundation provides medical care and humanitarian relief in the heart of Baghdad’s Red Zone and promotes peace through inter-religious dialog.   Believing that “without genuine reconciliation, there can never be lasting peace,”  it works for reconciliation by engaging religious leaders in dialogue, and helping them use their influence to promote peace. 

“Religion and politics are intimately linked in the Middle East, so a religious track is essential to a balanced peace process,” said Canon Andrew White, FRRME founder and chair of the High Council of Religious Leaders in Iraq.  “When religion goes wrong, it goes very wrong, but if religion is part of the problem, it must be part of the solution.  A wholly secular approach will not suffice.” 

FRRME’s health clinic works to reconcile Iraqis at a grassroots level by employing Sunni, Shia, Christian and Jewish staff.

Sarah, a peace, human rights, and women’s right activist, is the foundation’s director of operations and Andrew’s assistant. 

“What is happening to people in Iraq, from persecution to starvation to killing, affects the population in more ways than the world can even imagine,” said Sarah, who beside her effort aiding Iraqis displaced by ISIS, volunteers as a dentist in a medical center in Baghdad.  She provides quality health care free to anyone who needs it.

 She has also created the nonprofit, Because I Love Peace, which promotes peace through letters of love, hope and support to those struggling in Iraq.

Sarah will discuss the humanitarian crisis and religious conflict that permeate lives of Iraqi  citizens, particularly Christians and Muslims.

 She will also tell about FRRME’s work on religious reconciliation.  She will also tell experiences of the ISIS crisis in Iraq, raising concern for Christians in Iraq persecuted for their faith.

Mustafa, an engineering student at Gonzaga, returned to Iraq last summer to work with Sarah, providing food and supplies to thousands of displaced minority Christian families.

Not only is Mustafa engaged in Gonzaga’s student body, he is also active in peace and justice efforts in Spokane.  His poetry communicates what it is like to be a refugee from a war-torn country. Both Sarah and Mustafa are Iraqi citizens and Muslims.

 For information, call 358-4273.

Pullman, Yakima plan advocacy education events

“Faith Communities Advocating for Justice” will be the theme for a faith community advocacy education event from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 24, at Community Congregational United Church of Christ, 525 NE Campus St., in Pullman.

There will be speakers, workshops and discussion on issues before the Washington State Legislature, such as the environment, the death penalty, wealth inequality, the state budget, housing, homelessness and education.  Conference leaders include the Rev. Paul Benz of Faith Action Network, Jeff Tietjen of the Community Action Center and others on how to do advocacy.   

For information, call 509-334-3322 or email by Jan. 21. 

Yakima’s 2015 Interfaith Advocacy Day will be from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 7, at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Yakima, 225 N. 2nd St.  Topics will include police accountability and structural racism in Yakima County.

For information, email

Council adopts jobs ordinances

Spokane Alliance filled Spokane’s Dec. 15 City Council meeting to support the Quality Jobs ordinances they have worked on for five years to put youth, veterans and women into state approved apprenticeship programs and create opportunities for local contractors.  The council voted 5 to 2 in favor of the ordinances.

Spokane Alliance leaders asked the council to invest public tax money back into the local economy and raise the median income for the city.

The ordinances create:

• A $350K threshold for public works projects to phase in a 15 percent apprenticeship utilization.

• A funding mechanism to assess the economic benefit of low bid materials compared to materials purchased locally.

• A way to award points to local contractors with a history of good performance.

The Spokane Alliance has been working to create Quality Jobs in Spokane for five years, said Carol Krawcyzk, director.

With many public works projects coming up and the need for technical opportunities for youth, the ordinances provide a vehicle for local economic development through living wage jobs, and technical training for local workers, she said.

For information, call 532-1688.

Spokane network joins Earth Ministry

The Faith and Environment Network (FEN) in Spokane has become a part of Earth Ministry, which for 20 years has worked statewide to engage the religious community in environmental stewardship and advocacy.

 “Our activity in Spokane and Eastern Washington in the future will be tied to Earth Ministry,” said Evita Krislock and Tom Soeldner, speaking on behalf of the Faith and Environment Board of Directors.

“We believe our coming together will provide a stronger and more active presence for our environmental ministries in Eastern Washington,” they said.

The two are now on the board of Earth Ministries and Washington Interfaith Power and Light—Earth Ministries’ full name.

Earth Ministry has a Greening Congregations Program to help houses of worship implement sustainable practices.  Its advocacy program empowers clergy and lay leaders to speak on public issues.

It offers education, outreach, organizing and training to build a moral constituency promoting the health of communities and the environment.

For information, call 838-4632 or 206-749-0663.

Fig Tree is recruiting hosts for benefit events

The Fig Tree is beginning to recruit table hosts for its Benefit Breakfast, Wednesday, March 11, and Benefit Lunch, Friday, March 13, in Cataldo Hall at Gonzaga University.

Table hosts donate $100 to cover the cost of food for themselves and seven other guests they invite.  Guests enjoy a complimentary meal and are invited to donate for the work of The Fig Tree.

“We accept any donation, but invite people to consider donating $100 to match their host’s contribution to make the meal possible,” said editor Mary Stamp.

As of mid-December, the 2014 benefit events raised $29,000, with about $800 more in pledges expected, she said.

The benefit events are an opportunity to share stories covered in the previous year and to celebrate The Fig Tree’s mission of sharing those stories and connecting people with resources.

The theme for 2015 is “Sharing Stories That Inform, Inspire and Involve.”

“It’s a great time to celebrate those who shared their stories and our media with ongoing supporters and with people just learning about it,” Mary said.

For information, call 535-1813.

Ecumenical Catholic priest becomes bishop

The Ecumenical Catholic Community in the region has added two new communities and elected Tom Altepeter as bishop.

St. Clare Ecumenical Catholic Community (ECC) in Spokane is sponsoring the Church of Mary Magdalene in Pullman, which meets at Simpson United Methodist Church, and St. Francis, which began Nov. 2 at the United Church of Chewelah.

Tom serves as interim pastor for both until they have resident pastors.  Linda Kobe Smith and Jim Murphy, who have training in ministry and pastoral experience, help him serve St. Clare and the mission communities.

St. Clare began meeting in spring 2012 and moved to its current site at the conference room of the SNAP building in March 2013.  It has about 85 participants and about 45 at worship.

Once a month, the Chewelah community meets with St. Clare at 9:30 a.m., Sundays, at 3102 W. Ft Wright Dr.

Tom will be consecrated as bishop of the Pacific Northwest Region, which includes six communities in Washington, plus Idaho and Oregon, at 6 p.m., Friday, Jan. 23, at Salem Lutheran Church, 1428 W. Broadway in Spokane. 

Presiding Bishop Peter Hickman of Orange, Calif., will be principal consecrator along with ECC bishops Francis Krebs of St. Louis, Mo., and Armando Levya of Long Beach, Calif.

“My role is to provide pastoral oversight for existing communities and to increase the number of communities,” Tom said. 

Other communities in the state are Emmaus ECC in Olympia and St. Ignatius ECC in Seattle, plus a newly forming Good Shepherd community in Tacoma.

A story on Tom is in the January 2014 Fig Tree and at

For information, call 361-0463 or email or visit

House lowered onto foundation

On Dec. 9, My Father’s House – A House of Prayer for All Nations was lowered hydraulically onto its new foundation at 3111 E. Marshall.

The 1889 Victorian House, which formerly was officially considered “building materials,” is now designated “real estate,” said Dan Grether, founder and executive director of Free Indeed Ministries International.

There was an open house on Saturday, Dec. 13.

Photos are on its Facebook page.

Dan thanked the Church of Spokane for prayers and support of My Father’s House.

“May the Lord prepare all of our hearts to worship, pray and joyously intercede side-by-side in My Father’s House,” said Dan.

He is working with Scott McConnell, a home renovation contractor, and the Rev. Jim Leuschen, both of New Covenant Fellowship. Having a House of Prayer in Spokane was Jim’s vision for 20 years.

For information, call 218-3996.

Published by The Fig Tree, 1323 S. Perry St., Spokane, WA 99202
509-535-4112 / 509-535-1813



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