ST. CLOUD -- As violence against various religions increases around the world, there is a group of faith leaders here in St. Cloud trying to preach a message of tolerance. The Greater St. Cloud Area Faith Leaders was formed five years ago in response to acts of vandalism at a local mosque.

Michael Peterson is with St. John's Abbey in Collegeville. He says the pastors, elders, and other leaders meet once a month. He says they also host "Circles of Understanding" events for members of their congregations.

Where we have small circles, 7-8 people, discussing together in civil conversations.  Each person gets to talk, we just talk about the difficult topics.

Peterson says they also have their annual community picnic coming up in August at Lake George.  The faith leaders release statements and letters in times of crisis or concern.

He says they understand it takes time, but they want to lead by example.

It's hard to change people's hearts, I know my heart can be pretty hardened at times.  This Friday our group is invited by the local Islamic Center to celebrate the Iftar and I look forward to that a lot because we'll have a lot of good food and good company.  I hope that is advertised that these faith leaders are going into a mosque.

The Greater St. Cloud Area Faith Leaders includes members of the Catholic, Muslim, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Unitarian, Methodist, and Jewish communities.

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