Global Faith in Action seeks “to effect positive change in our global community” by celebrating “[p]eople from all over the globe [who] bring cross-cultural and religious practices to Wichita.” At the same time, GFIA promotes local relationships through global efforts. The organization was established in 2009 by the Reverend Sam Muyskens, an interfaith veteran with over 30 years experience. Muyskens sought to leverage Wichita’s religious diversity for community building at home and social action abroad. After a series of listening sessions with community members, Muyskens’ founded GFIA on the principle “that dialogue must have action.” The “dialogue in action” model begins with the premise that “often traditional methods of dialogue create awareness but seldom result in ‘action’, the kind of action that results in reconciliation, healing and the transformation of relationships.” At a consultation with White House staff, Muyskens explained: “Dialogue in action is more than sharing our beliefs, even more than being respectful of differing religious beliefs – it is relationship building – it is life changing.”
Global Faith in Action is staffed by volunteers and sustained by a leadership team, board of directors, and nearly 700 supporters. Muyskens serves as the organization’s president, working with colleagues to transform the religious community in Wichita in an action-oriented way. The diversity of people involved in GFIA programming are a testimony to the effectiveness of their emphasis on moving beyond traditional methods of interfaith dialogue; this message resonates with individuals from a variety of religious traditions, including Muslim, Hindu, Baha’i, Buddhist, Protestant Christian and Roman Catholic.
Global Faith in Action’s mission is “to assist families, congregations, communities, and nations live beyond our differences, in respectful presence of all through dialogue in action.” To live out this mission, GFIA successfully localizes existing initiatives—including the Charter for Compassion, the Golden Rule movement, and the Amazing Faiths Dinner Dialogues—to best serve Wichita. At the same time, GFIA’s innovative global partnership with Lambert, Haiti allows the organization to effectively demonstrate the “dialogue into action” model.
In their first year of operation, GFIA reached out to businesses, schools, religious sites, and city leaders, visiting these potential partners to promote Wichita as a “City of Compassion.” GFIA asked businesses and organizations to display a poster of the Charter for Compassion, a 2009 document that outlines the principles of compassionate living as outlined by religious luminaries and public intellectuals. As a result of GFIA’s efforts, over eighty businesses in Wichita agreed, with the result of promoting an atmosphere of respect and dialogue within the community. Global Faith in Action also leads retreats based on the Golden Rule that are targeted at youth, adults, and business leaders.
One of Global Faith in Action’s first efforts was to organize dinner dialogues modeled after Dr. Jill Carroll’s Amazing Faiths Project in Houston. Since 2006 the Amazing Faiths Project has brought together people of all faiths and no faith for fellowship and friendship around the dinner table. Today, many interfaith organizations in cities across the United States host dinner dialogues using the Amazing Faiths Project model. Each dinner dialogue brings together ten individuals of various faith traditions in the home of a participant for a meal and a facilitated discussion. During the first year in Wichita, Global Faith in Action brought together 115 individuals of various faith traditions to be a part of the Amazing Faiths Dinner Dialogue. Integrating the program with its “dialogue in action” methodology, Global Faith in Action ended each dinner with a discussion about what action steps can be taken to improve dialogue and relationship building in the city.
Muyskens explains that GFIA’s “dialogue in action” model is charting new territory in the interfaith movement. In May 2011 Global Faith in Action presented the “Universal Harmony Concert” in downtown Wichita. The concert centered on the theme of the Golden Rule and was presented as an “interactive dialogue between artist and audience.” The event featured reggae and jazz group Raga Swan and the Sambanda Project; Sufi music by Ustad Ghulam Farid Nizami; Rudy Love, a Kansas R & B Artist; traditional Hindu devotional music by Kalachandji’s Kirtan Band; and David Feiertag, a bass soloist who plays songs from the Jewish tradition. The concert began with each musician or group on stage together, introducing themselves and their featured musical tradition, and explaining how they see their religion or faith expressed through that medium. During the second half of the concert, the musicians together improvised “a Golden Rule” piece, blending their musical talents through song and rhythm. Muyskens called it “a new methodology of dialogue” where a “Sufi musician playing on his sitar, along with the traditional Hindu meditation group… [with an] African American soloist sitting up there as well…making up a song that he is singing on top of it all based on the words of the Golden Rule.”
Trips to Haiti offer another vivid example of GFIA’s commitment to “dialogue in action.” Muyskens began taking groups of Wichita residents to Lambert, Haiti nineteen years ago under the auspices of Inter-Faith Ministries, another local interfaith organization. The relationship between Muyskens and the Haitian town began during an American embargo when Muyskens learned from a Haitian colleague in Wichita that the man’s father, a teacher, was forced to close his school because of a lack of chalk. In response, Muyskens chartered a plane and delivered chalk by horseback to the school and a new partnership was born. Twenty-five trips later, Muyskens regularly assembles a diverse team to accompany him to Haiti not only as an “amazing time for dialogue” and opportunity to work together, but also to experience Haiti’s religious landscape and culture. Together, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, and Christians (among others) have built medical clinics, schools, and classrooms; participants are encouraged to share their experiences when they return home to Wichita.
As a young and new interfaith organization, Global Faith in Action’s leadership is constantly reflecting on “what is our next step?” In 2011 GFIA joined the national Interfaith Worker Justice network. The partnership began with religious leaders meeting in each others’ homes to design projects that would unite the faith community with labor and address the fundamental human right to organize, receive a living wage, and lead dignified lives.
Part of Muyskens’ vision is for GFIA to become a statewide organization. Whatever the future holds, Global Faith in Action remains inspired by the Sufi poet Rumi who wrote: “Beyond our differences, there is a field, I will meet you there.” Global Faith in Action seeks to lead the way in identifying those fields “where we can live beyond our differences at peace with each other.”
 Ibid. ↩
 Ibid. ↩
 Notes from workshop by Rev. Sam Muyskens at NAIN 2011. ↩
 Ibid. ↩