Interfaith Council Honors 3 Community Leaders In Annual Ceremony (February 12, 2021)
For the eighth year in a row The InterFaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit will have its awards and fundraising initiative on Monday, Feb. 22. This year’s virtual event centers on the theme “Divine Belonging in a Divided World.”
Each year the council represents three awards to community members who are vocally and physically active in building a united interfaith community for the greater good.
The ceremony will feature interviews with each of the awardees followed by a guest speaker, Detroit native John Powell, and a presentation about Interfaith Council’s recent activities.
This year’s Visionary Leader & Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented to The Rev. Fr. Norm Thomas of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Detroit. The Robert A. Bruttell Interfaith Leader Award will be presented to Imam Steve Mustafa Elturk, president of the Islamic Organization of North America. And the Outstanding Interfaith Group Award will be presented to Detroit Interfaith Outreach Network (DION).
Since 2005 Imam Elturk has been working with the interfaith community leaders to ensure civil rights for the Muslim community in Warren.
“I accept this award on behalf of my community and interfaith community because really that’s what this award is about — the work we collectively have done for the City of Warren and the betterment of the larger community,” he says.
In 2005, the Troy resident bought a building in Warren intending to turn it into the first mosque in the city. After receiving pushback from the local community — including threats and property violations — Elturk gained the necessary permits and documents from the city and opened Islamic Organization of North America in 2007.
“We were resisted and fought against simply because we are Muslim,” he says.
“With every challenge comes an opportunity, and this came with a few opportunities.”
Prior to opening Islamic Organization of North America, Elturk did not have connections with other interfaith communities, but knew the importance effects interfaith work had on the community.
“Life is not perfect and I thank God that I’m a religious person,” he says. “I remembered a verse from the Quran and how the Prophet Mohammad always yielded for peace. That was the key, as a religious leader I needed to work in solidarity with others.”
Over the next three years, he worked with local clergy members — The Rev. Fr. Gary Shulte of St. Sylvester Church, The Rev. Fr. Roger Facione of St. John’s Lutheran Church and the Rev. Michail Curro, executive director of Interfaith Center for Racial Justice in Mount Clemens — to draft an interfaith covenant for the City of Warren.
The covenant contains three major points promoting concepts of freedom, justice and equality among all faith communities for the Cities of Warren and Center Line, that all people should be allowed to work, live and worship without discrimination.
The idea was to bring this concept into the school system, particularly middle schools, and to the local city government. A resolution presented by the mayor was unanimously passed in 2010.
“That’s how we envision an interfaith leader,” says IFLC President Raman Singh.
“We are not just faithful when we go to our house of worship. I envision someone who lives their faith. Elturk fits that description perfectly for the Bob Bruttell Award.”
Elturk serves on the People’s Water Board, a Detroit-based organization that believes all people have the right to clean, affordable water and sanitation.
“With COVID-19 happening, (the City of Detroit) restored water back to those whose water was shut off,” he says. “We are currently working on a water affordability plan. We want everybody to have good, safe, clean water to drink and bathe in.”
The InterFaith Leadership Council was founded by a group of clergy and lay people after the 9/11 attack in 2001. In 2010, it became a nonprofit organization to further educate and connect communities in a peaceful manner. Its mission is to teach understanding that leads to respectful relationships among faiths.