Perhaps the best way to describe Redlands Area Interfaith Council (RAIC) is in the words of its president, Judy Cannon:
“I think RAIC is an astonishing organization. Religion is usually one of those areas that you don’t bring up at a party because no one can agree, but at RAIC, we celebrate our religious diversity,” she said. “We know that while we may not agree on the fine points of doctrine, we can agree that working together makes our community much richer, and that friendship and learning about each other is a good antidote to fear, paranoia, and distrust.
“When we end our meeting holding hands in a prayer circle, we feel very connected to each other. We know that we are stronger together than the sum of our parts.”
The council meets from 8 to 9 a.m. on the second Thursday of each month. Each meeting of representatives from its approximately 50 participating member organizations centers around three main objectives:
• To support each other in their faith-based works.
• To build friendships among members.
• And to work together on projects and events. Such projects include, but are not limited to, funding annual scholarships for graduating seniors, organizing the annual Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast, sponsoring the annual Interfaith Thanksgiving celebration and collaborating with the city of Redlands and Building Resilient Communities on emergency preparedness and response. This year they have also developed a refugee assistance program.
In addition to the annual events already mentioned, council members have come together during the past year to show their support of local Jewish and Muslim communities after terrorist attacks in Pittsburgh and New Zealand caused those local communities to feel vulnerable and under attack.
When asked if there was anything specifically the council would like the public to be aware during the remainder of this current year, Cannon said, “Our next big event is the Interfaith Community Thanksgiving Celebration, which will be held at 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 24.” (Venue to be announced).”
“And in light of growing religious persecution in the U.S., we are hoping to start a high school version of RAIC before the end of the year, a place where students can interact with students of other faiths, learn about each other, and make friends.”
When asked if the nature and focus of the council had changed over the years or is it still committed to its founding purposes, Cannon said the members are focused on its founding purposes. She believes its founder, University of Redlands political science professor Robert L. Morlan would be proud of what they are doing.
Indeed, to participate in a council function is proof positive that not all is bad news in today’s world. It’s the kind and sincere, human and sacrificial participation of local citizens that makes the council so appealing and such a community asset.