SYRACAUSE, N.Y. – InterFaith Works, the Syracuse nonprofit that helps organizations and individuals work through constructive engagement on difficult issues, is partnering with Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh to conduct “dialogue circles” on Columbus commemoration in the community. The program will get underway immediately following Columbus Day in 2018 and will continue into early next year.

“In many cities and states where Columbus recognition is part of the public discourse, the decision-making has been bitter and divisive. Columbus discussions have devolved into frustration, an us versus them mentality, winners and losers, and deeper divides and hurt within the communities,” said Beth Broadway, president and chief executive officer of InterFaith Works. ”Mayor Walsh reached out to us earlier this year and asked InterFaith Works to help guide the conversation in Syracuse so that, through this deliberative dialogue, better decisionmaking can result.”

InterFaith Works is an organization dedicated to building bridges of understanding among people of different religions, races, and ethnic backgrounds. It operates the El-Hindi Center for Dialogue, a community “hub” which brings community members together to discuss and take action on a variety of complex problems facing our community.

This week, the Center sent invitations to more than 30 people representing a cross section of faiths, races, and ethnic backgrounds. It is anticipated that 12 to 15 people will participate in the initial Dialogue Circle, which will begin immediately following Columbus Day and continue over five weeks. Additional dialogue circles will be organized in the winter and spring of 2019 with a goal of informing collaborative community solutions.

“Columbus recognition in Syracuse and across the country is all around us, from a government holiday and community observances to history books and local monuments,” said Mayor Walsh. “With the help and experience of InterFaith Works, I’m hopeful we can come to a better understanding of each other’s interests and concerns and find common ground to go forth together. This isn’t a conversation we can conclude for this year’s holiday, but we can get the process started.”

“We will endeavor from the very beginning to set an environment of learning from one another, respectful listening and deep sharing in order to create a set of recommendations that include the best thinking of each group member,” said Broadway.

Funding for the program has been provided by private donations. The Dialogue Circles will result in a joint report from InterFaith Works and the City, and will include recommendations from all the circles.

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