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Schools facilitate encounter for Catholic-Muslim pen-pals

At St. Mark’s Catholic Elementary School in St. Paul, MN, we strive to incorporate Pope Francis’ invitation to create a culture of encounter in the formation of the minds and hearts of our students. So, we enthusiastically accepted an invitation from the local private Muslim school to bridge cultures and cultivate real connections between our 5th grade students through letter writing.  In their letters, our fifth graders shared about their faith and cultures and discovered new things about their friends at Al-Amal private school, including the fact that they both loved soccer! Meanwhile our principal taught a class to our fifth graders about the Abrahamic religions, reflecting upon the unity and diversity of the Jewish, Muslim, and Christian traditions and Jesus’ prayer that we may all be one. After several weeks of exchanging letters, the two 5th grade classes met at a local park where they encountered their pen pals and introduced each other to their friends—and played a quick game of soccer. For our fifth graders, the students at Al-Amal are their friends. We hope that this encounter and the continued openness and acceptance of our brothers and sisters helps us to respond to the call to love our neighbors.