Clerics Seek Peace through Humor, Dialogue

"Interfaith Amigos"
Imam Jamal Rahman, pastor Don Mackenzie and rabbi Ted Falcon call themselves the interfaith amigos. The three clerics forged a relationship after the 9/11 attacks and have used humor and dialogue to advance understanding among their faiths and try to bring about peace.

As more details of an attempted Christmas terror attack emerge, it's clear that achieving peace on earth remains elusive. But three clerics of different faiths have teamed up to chase it, by provoking laughter and thought, as CBS News correspondent John Blackstone reports.

In a world where religion fuels both the drive for peace and the call to war, religious differences can be a chasm when the world needs is a bridge.

So meet three bridge builders - a pastor, a rabbi and an imam. They call themselves the interfaith amigos - pastor Don Mackenzie, rabbi Ted Falcon and imam Jamal Rahman - and they can seem like a comedy act.

"We are "Three Stooges" fans," Mackenzie said following a visual gag in which the three sat down before and audience and crossed their legs simultaneously. "We embody their famous saying that "I tried to think, but nothing happened.'"

"The soul opens with either tears or laughter," Falcon told Blackstone. "If we have a choice we'll choose laughter."

But their goal is serious: encouraging peace through understanding

"Our perceptions are so different, but as we talk more those differences they narrow more and more," Rahman said.

"Religion had been used because of it's authority as a cover for too much violence, too much hatred," added Mackenzie.

The violence and hatred of 9/11 planted the seeds for this friendship.

"When 9/11 happened, I immediately called Jamal and I said I want you to share in the Shabbat service with me that week," Falcon recalled. "It is crucial for people to see a different face of Islam."

The rabbi and the imam then invited the pastor to join them in public discussions of what divides us and what unites us.

"The tragedy of 9/11 offered us the moment to say, 'We've got to do something to try to prevent this sort of thing happening any more,'" Mackenzie said.

"Muslims must get to know Jews and Christians and really make the effort to connect with the other," said Rahman.

How does Rahman answer the doubts of some Americans that Islam is a peaceful religion?

"If we judge a religion by the behavior of some practitioners, every single religion would be in deep, deep trouble," Rahman said.

Together, the three clerics traveled to Israel - the holy land for all three religions and a place where peace has been particularly elusive.

"Any time you think you're all wrong - like Palestinians are all wrong, Israelis are all right - you'll never get to peace," Falcon said.

"You're a Jew, I'm a Muslim," Rahman said. "We both know this land belongs neither to Jews, nor to Muslims, nor to Christians; This land belongs to God."

Mackenzie recalled, "I said, 'Guys this is why we're doing this! How does it feel to be Ted? How does it feel to be Jamal?'"

In seeking peace they've seen the answer is to understand how it is to be the other.

Rahman added, "Not to change the other but to find a way at the heart to heart level to connect with the other."

"We live in a world at a time when the issues are so big, none of us - no country, no faith, no culture - can fix them alone," Falcon said.

They have written a book about their journey together, and they have become accustomed to having their friendship sound like the beginning of a joke.

But how about this one instead: A rabbi, a pastor and an imam walk on a road toward peace.

  • John Blackstone
    John Blackstone

    From his base in San Francisco, CBS News correspondent John Blackstone covers breaking stories throughout the West. That often means he is on the scene of wildfires, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and rumbling volcanoes. He also reports on the high-tech industry in Silicon Valley and on social and economic trends that frequently begin in the West.