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Founders of Jewish-Muslim Sisterhood Win Pacem in Terris Award

Sheryl Olitzky and Atiya Aftab
The Catholic Messenger

The two founders of a global interfaith group for women have become the first Jewish and Muslim recipients of the prestigious Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom award.

Atiya Aftab and Sheryl Olitzky founded the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom over ten years ago. It started as a small group of Jewish and Muslim women, and grew into a nonprofit with 150 chapters across the U.S., Canada, and England.

The Quad Cities chapter was started by Lisa Killinger and Gail Karp. Killinger says the women learn about eachother’s faith, develop friendships, and volunteer together to help the community.

“We’ve had a seder supper at the mosque, I prepared the matzo ball soup for the first time in my life,” she said. “We have women literally from all over the globe, so it’s very much an education about those cultures, and how Islam is practiced in those different countries.”

The Pacem in Terris award is presented by the Diocese of Davenport, to people working for peace and justice. Past recipients include JFK, Martin Luther King Jr., the Dalai Llama, and Cesar Chavez.

Killinger is part of a coalition of faith organizations, universities, and the cities of Rock Island and Davenport, tasked with nominating a candidate. She suggested Aftab and Olitzky.

“The whole committee got super excited,” she said. “And the Catholic community, and the Diocese was very excited about it as well.”

Diocese Director of Social Action Kent Ferris says it's long overdue.

“Interfaith encounter and dialogue at this moment is of profound importance,” he said. “Pursuit of peace and justice is something all people of good will can agree on.”

Bishop Thomas Zinkula will present the award to Aftab and Olitzky on September 13, at St. Ambrose University. Killinger and Karp will also be honored.

Rachel graduated from Michigan State University's J-School and has a background in broadcast and environmental journalism. Before WVIK, she worked for WKAR Public Media, Great Lakes Now, and more. In her free time, she likes to cook, hike, and hang out with her cat.

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