stories

Institute for Islamic, Christan and Jewish and Studies, on February 18, 2021, hosted an event for 100 people who screened Stranger/Sister and followed with a panel discussion with Sisterhood Co-Founder’s Atiya Aftab and Sheryl Olitzky.

Screening Stranger/Sister for scholars and educators gathered for the Interreligious and Interfaith Studies Unit of the American Academy of Religion in November 2020 was a particularly important pre-launch event, since this guild is a major nexus for those who teach world religions courses across the globe.  Educators noted how important it is to be able to share stories of multifaith cooperation led by grassroots efforts, rather than house of worship leaders.  

In the fall of 2020, Odyssey Fellow Staci Plonsky, a student at Iliff School of Theology, screened Stranger/Sister alongside a women’s book study of Barbara Brown Taylor’s Holy Envy. The women in the 8-week study group at Suntree United Methodist Church in Cocoa, Florida held diverse political views, and were aided by the film in talking about some of the difficult topics arising in the 2020 election season.  Staci reported, “We received rave reviews from class participants! Many commented about their paradigms shifting as a result of the concepts explored in that class.”  

Leaning into her call to develop as a public theologian, Odyssey Fellow Ristina Gooden screened Stranger/Sister in fall 2020 with the Disciples of Welcome cohort of more than 40 United Methodist clergy across North Carolina.  The film prompted a rich discussion of the role of Christian clergy in fostering truly transformative interfaith partnerships in their local contexts.  

“I am Atiya Aftab, Co-Founder, Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom and subject of the documentary, Stranger/Sister. I am also an Adjunct Professor at Rutgers University, Department of Political Science and Middle Eastern Studies Program teaching “Islamic Law and Jurisprudence” and Chair of the Center for Islamic Life. I participated on several Stranger/Sister film panels and when I thought about bringing the film to the Rutgers University campus, it made me nervous. I have taught at Rutgers for over 10 years and have been involved with the Muslim chaplaincy on campus for over 5 years. I was aware of the tensions between the Muslim and Jewish students on campus. For the most part I have kept my Sisterhood and Rutgers roles separate, but I took a chance!

The Alliance to Advance Interfaith Collaboration at Rutgers University hosted the Stranger/Sister screening and I moderated the panel discussion. It was amazing to see the number and mix of students that attended and witness the dynamic conversation that took place between the Muslim, Christian and Jewish chaplains which included a Rutgers Student Affairs staff member. The conversation touched on the challenges of interfaith discussion and action on campus. We discussed the challenges of how texts are seen through a political lens. We spoke about how to overcome seeing each other as “others” and how to engage in dialogue even when you disagree on issues. The chaplains in fact modeled exactly what we hoped: that the message of the Sisterhood and Stranger/Sister goes far beyond relationships between Muslim and Jewish women, and can be applied to life on a university campus.

The effect was immediate! Our chaplaincy received inquiries from Muslim students after the screening seeking suggested ways to engage in interfaith dialogue with Jewish students on campus.

The positive ripple of the film is real!

In a month of hope – let’s keep spreading the ripple!”

– Atiya Aftab



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