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Bishop Donald Kettler welcomes people to the event, which included a picnic, prayer and an opportunity to meet people of other faiths. Photos by Dianne Towalski / The Visitor

By Dianne Towalski
The Visitor

People from several faith communities gathered at Lake George Aug. 9 for a picnic organized by Greater St. Cloud Interfaith Leaders, a recently formed group focused on fostering a spirit of welcome and acceptance in the community.

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Kathryn Stolpman, manager of Catholic Charities Emergency Services, hugs Anab Dahir, founder of Central Minnesota Somali Women and Youth Support. Photos by Dianne Towalski / The Visitor

“It’s important to me, coming into a new community as I have, to get to know the people,” said Bishop Donald Kettler. “We’ve gotten together and I’ve had an opportunity to meet some of the people from the Somali community, from the Hispanic-Latino community and from others. That’s what we’re doing, getting to know each other. If something comes up and you know somebody, you can talk to them about it.”

For Somali elder and Muslim Jama Alimad, events like this one are important for the St. Cloud area.

“What makes a community is knowing each other, talking to each other, having a relationship,” he said. “So what we are looking for is the integration of a community.”

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Hassan Yussuf laughs with Benedictine Sister Mary Weidner. Photos by Dianne Towalski / The Visitor

Jim Barg, bishop of the St. Cloud ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, attended the picnic to get to know people from other faiths. “There are probably some misconceptions about what our faith is,” he said. “It’s good to get to know one another and hopefully break down some of those barriers.”

Hussein Mohamud, a member of the Somali Youth Leaders, captured the day’s activities with his iPhone to share on social media. “We come from different faiths, different religions, but we are one community in this St. Cloud city,” he said. “We come together today, it’s a historic day. We come together, eat a meal together, that proves we can live peacefully.”