Local/National Faith Briefs

Baked ham sandwiches served Thursday at St. Ann’s

Court Queen of Peace is serving lunch from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. during Lent on Thursdays at Divine Mercy Hall, St. Ann’s Church, Slayton. The menu includes a baked ham sandwich, salads, assorted desserts. Takeouts are available by calling 507-227-6519.

Balaton World Day of Prayer Involvement is March 2

The tropical rainforest country of Suriname will be highlighted during the World Day of Prayer program at 2 p.m. Friday, March 2, at Lakeview Senior Housing in Balaton. The service and lunch is hosted by Sillerud Lutheran.

Schools chief touts faith mentors, but only Christian ones

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Faith-based mentors can play an important role in children’s lives, South Carolina’s public schools chief said Wednesday. But in a video focused on the importance of school safety, Education Superintendent Molly Spearman only mentioned the positive influence of sharing the Christian faith with the state’s public school students.

Spearman’s video, prompted by last week’s deadly Florida school shooting, promises a thorough review of safety policies and encourages people to “remain ever vigilant. If you see or hear something, say something.”

She also plugs a faith-based mentoring program, saying, “By sharing Christ’s love, you could be a positive influence that prevents a tragedy like this from occurring.”

The presence of faith-based programs in South Carolina’s public schools has previously come under fire. In November, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which focuses on the separation of church and state, said it was “strenuously objecting” to an evangelical organization mentoring students at an elementary school in Beaufort County. The foundation argued that the school district “cannot allow its schools to be used as religious recruiting grounds.”

Officials said the program taught students non-academic behaviors and attitudes from a Christian mentor. That program was subsequently suspended, although district officials said they were looking at legal ways to make it available again.

Joel Lourie is a Jewish Democrat who served nearly 20 years in the state Legislature. He told The Associated Press on Wednesday that, while it’s a good idea to have faith-based mentors in school, Spearman should remember that the Christian faith isn’t the only one.

“I think having faith community mentors in our school is great, but not all children subscribe to the same faith she does,” Lourie told AP. “Perhaps we should be a little more opened-minded when we make those kinds of statements.”

Iowa City students ask district to note Muslim holidays

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Some Iowa City elementary students are urging the school district to recognize Muslim holidays, and board members say they’re willing to consider the request.

The Iowa City Press-Citizen reports several students proposed the idea at a school board meeting last week. They suggested the district schedule days off for the Muslim holidays of Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha.

The idea started with a letter sixth-grader Rayan Saeid wrote in her journal about celebrating the holidays. She didn’t think much about it, but her mother was impressed and showed the letter to a friend, who suggested she send it to the school district superintendent. He forwarded it to school board members.

Rayan told board members the holidays are important to Muslims.

“The Muslim community is getting bigger here in Iowa City, so (getting the holiday off) will benefit many people,” she said.

Fifth-grader Reem Kirja was among several students who joined Rayan before the board. She wants other students to know both holidays are times for families to get together and have fun, similar to Thanksgiving and Christmas.

“Muslims aren’t that scary,” she said. “Muslims are just humans. They can be your friends. They are regular people you can interact with, just with a different religion.”

Board Member Ruthina Malone says the board can explore the feasibility of accommodating major holidays celebrated by Jewish and Muslim students.

The board has time to decide, as neither Eid Al-Fitr nor Eid Al-Adha fall on a school day until the 2020-2021 school year.

Eid Al-Fitr marks the end of Ramadan and Eid Al-Adha commemorates the willingness of the prophet Ibrahim to sacrifice his son as God had commanded. Ibrahim is the Arab name for the prophet Abraham.