Interfaith Choir Pontanima is working on an edition of my latest book in Bosnian/Serbo-Croatian, to be printed in Bosnia & distributed to children there! It is in process... STAY TUNED!
Now an Artist on the Map!
Stefan Salinas will be selling his children's books in Silicon Valley and the East Bay, CA!
Saturday October 14, 10:00am - 3:00pm
Fremont High School
1279 Sunnyvale-Saratoga Rd. @ Fremont, Sunnyvale, CA
Sunday, October 15, 10:00am - 3:00pm
Acalanes High School
1200 Pleasant Hill rd., Lafayette, CA
Our Lady, Queen of the Clergy
Mary, please protect our priests. Radiate into them healing, wholeness, balance, and light.
8” x 10” Glicée print on 100% cotton rag, acid free, archival, 230 gsm paper. It will be sent to you with a white mat backing board and plastic sleeve (If you do not wish for either mat board or sleeve, let me know).
The original painting is also available. Inquire via contact email below.
Review in Public Discourse
by Jennifer S. Bryson, Ph.D.
A new children’s book provides a way to introduce children to Christian-Muslim relations by celebrating robust and full religious expression in a diverse society.
Many children’s books about interfaith relations are nice, but their messages often don’t go much deeper than “let’s be kind to each other.” Even the brilliant secular book on living with diversity, Do Unto Otters by Laurie Keller, accomplishes only this. But we can’t teach about interfaith relations if we strip the characters of faith itself.
At last we now have the insightful children’s book A Muslim Family’s Chair for the Pope: A True Story from Bosnia and Herzegovina written and delightfully illustrated by Stefan Salinas, a Catholic artist from the San Francisco area.
A Muslim Family’s Chair for the Pope follows the true story of Salim, a Muslim woodworker in Bosnia. When Salim hears about plans of Pope Francis to visit Bosnia in 2015, he comes up with the idea to carve a chair for the Pope to use when he celebrates Mass during his visit. Salim tells us, “Immediately, in my head appeared an image of a chair for the Pope, and I was its creator!”
A Muslim Family’s Chair for the Pope provides a way to introduce children to interfaith relations, in particular to Catholic-Muslim relations, with a robust celebration of faith and religious practice, as witnessed through the lives of the Muslim and Catholic characters in the book. There is no vague, lowest-common-denominator kumbaya in this book. Instead there are people praying, there are sacred images, and there is even theology: we learn who Jesus is for Catholics (“Son of God”) and for Muslims (“a prophet”). It celebrates imams, priests, and nuns. And, not least of all, the book honors the Pope, thanks to a Muslim artisan’s desire to do something beautiful and kind for his Catholic neighbors.
The artwork of Salinas shows great respect for family life as well as for religiously diverse communities sharing the public square. It acknowledges there can be strife between religious communities, but it doesn’t stop at the point of darkness.
Salinas takes us, instead, on a tour of the adventure of Salim’s chair for the Pope. Salim approaches a local Catholic priest with his idea, which then winds its way up the ladder of church leadership, eventually being approved by Rome. We learn about Salim’s interior questioning, wondering why he, a Muslim, is doing this for a Roman Catholic Pope. Salim talks with God about this; he prays to make sure he is doing the right thing. We learn about Salim’s collaboration with local Catholics in the design process, and about how Salim and his sons volunteer their time and talent for this project.
The illustrations of Muslims at prayer in a mosque and Catholics at Mass in a church offer a way to talk with children about the people of each religious community and the ways in which they worship God. Also helpful, and delightful, are the illustrations of religious art. We learn in some detail about the individual Christian images Salim carves into the chair, and the meaning of the Christian stories behind these images. We read a bit of the Quran and a bit of the Bible, learning about the Islamic art of Arabic calligraphy of Quranic texts and seeing some Orthodox icons too. The drawings of cities feature a mix of church spires and minarets intertwining side by side. And we see Pope Francis meeting with local Muslim, Christian, and Jewish leaders. Perhaps most importantly, the Muslim and Catholic characters in the book live out their faith lives joyfully.
A Muslim Family’s Chair for the Pope is just an introduction to the realm of Catholic-Muslim relations through the story of one character and his neighbors. It does not try to—nor does it need to—tackle every aspect of this vast, complex topic. This is important, because if we view Catholic-Muslim relations solely as a topic of global, multi-century issues, we risk fostering a state of ‘interfaith paralysis,” fearful, with no idea where to begin.
Moreover, at a time when religion in public life is often framed through a narrow political lens, Christians and Muslims have an opportunity today to be among those who are helping society to view religion through other lenses too, such as the lens of how we relate to people in our day-to-day lives. This is not to say that we ignore real world violence and suffering; not at all. Rather, alongside recognition of the bigger issues, bringing our attention to our own day-to-day lives can help us see not only ways to love our neighbors but also to find ways to carry out the delicate and important task of preparing children to live in our multi-faith world as well as the diverse mini-universe of any given city block. Salinas’s book helps to provide such a point of entry for discussing interfaith relations with children.
Salinas’s book reminds me of the wisdom of St. John Paul II, which he shared thirty-two years ago in his address to Muslim youth in Morocco:
Christians and Muslims, in general we have badly understood each other, and sometimes, in the past, we have opposed and even exhausted each other in polemics and in wars. I believe that, today, God invites us to change our old practices. We must respect each other, and also we must stimulate each other in good works on the path of God.
This story of Salim’s good work helps us share with children an alternative to exhausting “each other in polemics and wars.” This story shows in concrete terms what such “good works on the path of God” can look like, and it provides a way to introduce children to doing such “good works on the path of God” for others, including people of other faiths. A Muslim Family’s Chair for the Pope is rooted in the centrality and wonder of God in the lives of the Muslim and Catholic characters in the book, and it translates this wonder into Salim and his collaborators, Muslim and Catholic alike, responding to God through good works carried out both for and together with each other.
This book is suitable for introducing Catholic children to Islam and Muslims, and for introducing Muslim children to Catholicism and Catholics. This is a very Catholic book; while it is certainly one I recommend for adventurous Protestants and atheists alike, it is not one likely to be embraced with enthusiasm by Bible-only Christians or those who are allergic to religion. This would be a wonderful gift for children, nieces, nephews, godchildren, and for the libraries of Catholic and Muslim schools, as well as public schools.
Salinas’s book is a celebration of the words of Jesus: “Love thy neighbor.” Woodworker Salim’s generosity is a celebration of loving one’s neighbors even when one does not agree with their religion. Yes, this is possible. And—as we learn from Salim—it can be beautiful too.
Jennifer S. Bryson, Ph.D., is Director of Operations and Development at the Center for Islam and Religious Freedom (CIRF) and a volunteer Catechist at her parish in Washington, DC.
Models for public displays, for my children's books.Read More
Edin Hajderovac Interview, Featuring Stefan Salinas' Book
The chair for the pope was the motive for the children's book in the United States?
We did not expect so much media attention. One American writer (Stefan Salinas) contacted us, and he sought out stories about religions, and he liked that we are Muslims, my grandfather pilgrims, and asked us to write a book about us. Thank God, this book saw the light of day, and I hope that this book is taught as a compulsory textbook in religious education in America.
Stolica za papu bila je motiv za dječiju knjigu u SAD-u?
Nismo očekivali toliku medijsku pažnju. Jedan američki pisac (Stefan Salinas) nas je kontaktirao, a on pravi priče o religijama, i svidjelo mu se što smo mi muslimani, moj je djed hadžija, te nas je zamolio da napiše knjigu o nama. Hvala Bogu, ta knjiga je ugledala svjetlo dana, a nadam se da će u tom dijelu Amerike uči kao obavezan udžbenik u vjeronauci.
Interview (in two parts) in the blog Radical Second Things:
Interview With Bay Area Catholic Author Stefan Salinas
I met Stefan unexpectedly last week while I was at the Bay Area Book Festival. I came across his two children's book - Catholic Churches Big and Small and A Muslim Family's Chair for the Pope - and instantly thought that both were a perfect match for Radical Second Things. I got copies of both and Stefan agreed to an interview. Hopefully it leads to more - he is perfect for this project!
- You told me when we met that you originally sought publication through Ignatius Press, a generally conservative Catholic publisher. What made you decide on self-publishing?
This was for my book on churches. They said, Hurray! They wanted to publish it, and they even sent me a long questionnaire to answer. I had a graphic novel for a much different audience out at the time, so I simply asked them if I could use a pseudonym for the kid’s book. The next day I received a cold rejection. “With the new information you provided to us regarding your other novels, our editors feel that your body of work does not match with our style here at Ignatius Press. Even with a pseudonym, they feel that your two different types of books cannot be separated from one another. Since your graphic novels are not in line with the perspective of Ignatius Press, it cannot publish Catholic Churches Big and Small.”
Furthermore, I was told they would not answer any questions about this. I thought this was a bit odd since the bios they do feature on their children’s book authors are very, very brief, and none have URL’s or links to more of their work. Some kid’s book listings on their sight don’t even mention the author’s name at all! Humf!
So after having sent the book proposal to quite a number of agents and other publishing houses, I looked into self-publishing, just so the baby could finally get to be born. The advantage of that was I have gotten to learn a bit about the nuts and bolts of the process, and it gave me full control of the final product. And hey, the Archdiocese of San Francisco purchased copies for all of their grammar schools, and it sells well at the Cathedral, and at fares and events.
The next book, A Muslim Family’s Chair for the Pope, was also almost picked up by a large publisher, this time Loyola Press. I knew this topic would be a harder sell, as religious children’s book literature is NOT the realm to bust out with any boldly new and potentially controversial ideas. I was happy when Loyola expressed initial interest, as they are one of the only Catholic presses with picture books that seem to have anything to do with the 21st Century. We were in dialogue for a year’s timewhile I was still working on the illustrations. In the end, the editors kept running into a question they could not seem to answer, “What Muslim or Catholic parents would actually buy this book?”
In the words of Tracy Chapman, if not now, then when? Rising tensions here and abroad compelled me to move forward with publishing. It has just been featured in a Catholic summer reading list by a contributor to Catholic News Service (it is not on their site yet, but has appeared on a few other sites). Of the nine books selected, mine is the only self-published one!
(A note from Orion - I had a really similar experience when working for a transcription company last year. Despite great ratings, so good I put them on a resume, I was informed I was fired abruptly and told that no response would get an answer.)
- Why did you call your imprint Camelopardalis?
Somewhere there is a photograph of me as a toddler, holding one of my first toys: a plastic giraffe. I have always loved them – so elegant and unique. They have become a sort of personal totem animal for me; a symbol of my highest self (ha-ha). When I learned that there is a constellation, Camelopardalis, in the shape of one, the image of a giraffe reaching up to the stars popped into my head.
- The art in both “Catholic Churches: Big and Small” and “A Muslim Family’s Chair for the Pope” blended the very simple with complex depictions of things like cathedrals. How did you balance this?
One of my influences is the Author and illustrator David Macaulay, who has built his career on creating very detailed, educational children’s books about buildings, houses of worship and cities. For my churches book, I didn’t want to insult the tots’ intelligence with simple, Hallmark card-looking cartoons of churches, nor did I want to present just generic architectural forms. My goal was to share with readers that which excites me about religious art and architecture, and that meant drawing from actual sources and depicting them with as much passion as I feel for them, if that makes any sense. And since they are made of all sorts of materials, I wanted the paint, ink and colored pencil to best translate this. As for the human characters and the rest of the settings, their duty was to charm us and lead us on this delightful journey, so I felt a playful approach would be more effectively endearing. Think of animated films throughout history, where the cartoon characters appear atop more realistically rendered sets.
For the Muslim/Chair/Pope book, my goal was to spotlight the Hajderovac’s craftsmanship, so I was a bit more conservative with my approach to depicting the people. They do have figures carved in their designs, and I wanted my figures to be complimentary to them. I imagined the drawings of the wood products to look like a carpenter’s drawings for such pieces to later carve. Penciling them in brown tones, while painting everything else with black lines and colors, the effect was to make their craftsmanship (as it is the focus of the book) stand out. And I have to admit, I love, love, love the miniature paintings from the Persian and Mughal courts in India. As they are the best example of representational (humans, in particular) art in Muslim paintings, I thought it fitting to give a nod in their direction.
- How did you become aware of the story of the Muslim craftsman who built a chair for the Pope?
Through hours of Google searches! After determining that the silly peace narrative I made up about Muslims and Catholics was too preachy and bland, I looked to the internet for a true and recent inspirational story out there. Something kid-friendly. They hit the international news when the chair was only partially complete, and I caught up with it in April of 2015 (the chair was finished that June). The Lord sure knows how to engage us.
As a lover of religious art, and a person who has been fortunate enough to have been able to make things to be installed in churches, finding this interfaith story about artists who make things for mosques and churches - well can you not see how it’s as if the Holy spirit thought, “Now this story needs to be told to younger generations to come, but who exactly shall I choose for the job?”
- Which churches were your favorite to depict in either book?
For the first book, I do favor modern churches, especially since they are almost never included in children’s literature. As the churches are all located in San Francisco, I have worshipped in some and often pass by others day after day, so they have become architectural friends and acquaintances.
How does one choose a favorite? I do so love the bold statement the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption’s form makes. The stained glass from St. Vincent de Paul was a pure joy to paint, but see I took RCIA and was baptized there, so how can I separate the window’s exquisite beauty from my fond memories of the space?
As for the second book, my choices were limited to the actual structures in Zavidovici and Sarajevo. There’s something positive, formal and approachable about St. Joseph’s church, so that would be my pick. Yellow churches are like sunshine to me. Think of St. Anne’s of the Sunset in San Francisco. Yes it is a tall, imposing structure, but the peach paint softens its personality, as if it is saying, “Hello, please feel free to step inside.”
- What was the reception like toward your work at the Bay Area Book Festival?
Being that it was my first BABF, I am not sure what constitutes a good year from a leaner one. The “Family Activities Zone” as Milva Street was named, featured mostly independent authors, and I think we did pretty well collectively. The experience was worth it.
- interview by Michael
Review from Catholic News Service, appearing in Catholic Philly, (Philadelphia Archdiocese), The Visitor (St. Cloud, MN), & Catholic Courier (Rochester, NY):
This summer explore nature, poetry, saints with new children’s books
By Regina Lordan • Catholic News Service • Posted June 5, 2017
“A Muslim Family’s Chair for the Pope: A True Story from Bosnia and Herzegovina”
by Stefan Salinas.
Camelopardalis (San Francisco, 2017).
48 pp., $16.99.
How did a Muslim carpenter from a small town in Bosnia and Herzegovina come to make the chair for the papal Mass during Pope Francis’ visit there in 2015? A brave idea, a skilled worker and more than 2,000 hours of hard work led to a collaborative masterpiece. Written from the perspective of Salim Hajderovac, the cheerful and humble carpenter, this book is a wonderful story about interreligious teamwork. Working closely with his good friend the local parish priest, Hajderovac’s brazen idea came to fruition. Within the context of a true story, children will learn a few basic truths about Catholicism and Islam. Ages 6-10.
2 events coming up Saturday, March 25, 2017
At Most Holy Redeemer & Noe Valley Book Festival
A dear artist with a big heart, leaves this Earth
April 12, 2017
Salim Hajderovac, a carpenter from Zavidovići, who with his sons made a chair for Pope Francis, died today at age 64.
Last year Pope Francis came and went, this year left us and Salim Hajdarovac who will be remembered in the history of Zavidovici, city tree that was him just served for the lives of the project.
Funeral for Salim Hajderovac. Thousands attended in Zavidovici. It was the first time the town's Catholic Pastor, Fr. Beslic, attended a Muslim funeral there.
Please send your prayers to him and to his wife and loved ones. إِنَّا لِلّهِ وَإِنَّـا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعونَ
Nov. 2015, July 2016 - Open Studios & SF Public Library
April 28, 2015 - Blessing of the Icon - The Visitation - Church of the Visitacion, SF
Elementary School Visits:
Nov. 30, 2014 - St. Vincent de Paul
Oct. 10, 2014 - St. Philip the Apostle
Oct. 2, 2014 - Our Lady of the Visitacion
Sept. 25, 2014 - Mission Dolores Academy
June 3, 2014 - School of the Epiphany
(Ok, so the reviewer confused my identity with Salim's... It's all good!)
Nonfiction: The Buzz on Bees, Dipping into Chocolate | June 2017 Xpress Reviews
SALINAS, Stefan. A Muslim Family’s Chair for the Pope: A True Story from Bosnia and Herzegovina. illus. by Stefan Salinas. 50p. Camelopardalis. Jan. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780998608808.
Gr 3-5 –Salinas begins this personal narrative with an introduction to his family of woodworkers, his country of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and his Muslim faith. While there are mostly amicable relations between Muslims and Christians in his village, his country overall has a long history of conflict between members of these two groups. This truth underscores the significance of Salinas’s story. When Pope Francis planned a visit to the capital city of Sarajevo in 2015, Salinas’s carpentry workshop was selected to design and craft a beautiful wooden chair to honor him. Although Salinas was initially hesitant to dive right in (“As a Muslim making a chair for the Catholic Pope, am I crazy?”), he recognized that loyalty to his own faith was in no way sacrificed by creating an object of beauty for another set of beliefs (“By making this gift…perhaps I am building a bridge.”). The text does meander a bit before concluding with the pope’s arrival and use of the chair during mass. Salinas’s color pencil, ink, and acrylic illustrations are expressive and communicate much of the text well. VERDICT A heartfelt story that simply conveys the importance of positive interfaith relations. An addition purchase for large collections.–Gloria Koster, West School, New Canaan, CT
The Path to Writing a Children’s Book About Muslims and Christians
“This is ecumenical; this is sorely needed in our world today,” said the lady at the gift shop at the cathedral, in San Francisco where I reside. “Pilgrims look at the cover, notice the Arabic script and crescent moon, and recoil. But once I read the title to them — you know, actually read the book — what a concept, right? — They then relax… At least a little bit.”
I added, “And Pope Francis just visited Egypt, for crying out loud. We were all on our knees praying that he wouldn’t be blown to bits, but forward he went, with faith…” Read more
Edin, one of the carpenters, holding a copy of my Muslim-Chair-Pope book, about his family.
The story of the Bosnian Muslim family which in 2015 made a chair for Pope Francis on the occasion of his visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina will become a major part of American children's books. February 7, 2017 by MARIO VRANJEŠ
The story of the Bosnian Muslim family which in 2015 made a chair for Pope Francis on the occasion of his visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina will become a major part of American children's books.
In San Francisco, the author Stefan Salinas will publish a book, "A Muslim's Family Chair for the Pope." The story follows Salim and only Hajderovac, father and son from Zavidovići who have made a chair for Pope Francis.
Salinas idea is that the book is primarily for children from Catholic families to form a better understanding of, and learn the importance of getting to know people of different cultures.
"I am sensitive to the various stories of other faiths, cultures and people that they generalize," said Salinas, a Texas-born parishioner in a church community. He therefore decided to find a story in which people of different faiths worked together, and hearing all the buzz about the Hajderovac family, contacted them via Skype.
Salinas thinks the the Pope's chair was "divinely inspired" and notes that the work of the family has been blessed by the leadership of the Islamic Community in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as the Vatican.
Parishioner-artist publishes book about Muslim carpenters’ gift to Pope Francis
February 7th, 2017
By Christina Gray
A book for children about a pair of Muslim carpenters chosen by the Vatican to make a chair for Pope Francis for his visit to war-torn Bosnia and Herzegovina in the summer of 2015 will be released in March by San Francisco author and artist Stefan Salinas.
“A Muslim Family’s Chair for the Pope” is the true story of Salim Hajderovac and Edin Hajderovac, father and son woodworkers known for the religious carvings including crosses they produce from their shop in the town of Zavidovici in central Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Salinas, a convert to Catholicism in 2012, was inspired to write the book, his second, to help readers – children and the adults who may read it to them – appreciate people of other cultures and faiths instead of fear them.
“My ear is a little sensitive to when people talk about other religions, cultures or people with generalizations,” Salinas told Catholic San Francisco. The transplanted Texan, now a parishioner at Most Holy Redeemer Parish, says it’s all too easy to do. “What I’ve heard people say about Texans or Californians is not always true.”
Salinas went online to search for examples of both faiths working together and came upon a story in a Bosnian paper about the Hajderovac family, Muslims who hand-carve devotional objects for both Christians and Muslims. The carpenters were among many who vied for an unpaid opportunity offered by the Vatican to make a chair for Pope Francis’ visit to Sarajevo on June 6, 2015.
Making contact with and communicating with the carpenters about his idea of a book was itself a story of divine providence and cultural goodwill.
Salinas emailed an Islamic community of Bay Area Bosnians in San Jose for help and a woman originally from a neighboring town managed to produce the carpenters’ website and email address.
A Facebook contact led to another neighbor now working as a baker in Los Angeles. He helped coordinate and translate a three-way Skype call between Salinas and the carpenters to discuss the book idea and has continued to act as a bridge between them.
Through that same translator, the carpenters told Catholic San Francisco that their offer to make a chair for the pope received not just a blessing from Muslim leaders but encouragement. Their proposal was then taken to the Vatican where the pope himself “gave us his blessings.”
The chair for the pope from BiH motive for child book in the US
Al Jazeera Balkans February 7, 2017 by Malden Obrenovic
Children in America will get the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the book about Salim Hajderovac and his family who have made a chair for Pope Francis.
The story of the life and work of the Hajderovacs, carpenters from Zavidovici for a visit by Pope Francis Sarajevo two years ago made the chair on which the head of the Roman Catholic Church rested, became the main motive of the book for American children.
Children's writer Stefan Salinas from San Francisco is soon to publish a book titled: “A Muslim Family's Chair for the Pope” it is in a way, a children from Christian families, a story about the importance of getting to know the other and different cultures, peoples, religions.
"I'm glad it was when the man answered. He found out about us through the story from the media, call us and we started talking. Through Skype we explained how we came up with the idea, as we all do, and what significance this story not only for us but for the whole of Bosnia and Herzegovina, but also people of different faiths, "said Edin Hajderovac Al Jazeera.
The idea for a unique venture Edin and his father Salim came suddenly, as soon as they heard the news of Pope Francis coming to Sarajevo, one of the most important and the most popular people of the world in which we live. They wanted to make a ceremonial chair for moments of rest during their stay in the capital city of BiH. And that they did.
Since then, the last two years, and word spread, even to the west coast of America.
"It's such a beautiful story and I am glad that there are still positive echo although much time has passed since we made the chair. It was not only the honor of the Pope, nor us, but even more than that. We could not imagine such a positive reaction, not only in the media but also person to person. Everything is positive and we have not heard any negative words, "continued Edin.
This book is important in the difficult times that have befallen us all, says Edin Hajderovac
The author himself confesses that he is "sensitive to a variety of stories about other faiths, cultures and people who generalize them," quoted bh. Media, so he decided to find a story in which people of different faiths working together.
"I am pleased that we have someone who has decided to make a children's book was an inspiration, but it is especially important that it be a book for children. The author, father and I agreed that the positive, smarter and better to make a book for children because they will be so close to the reality of the young ones, especially that there are other and different, but that we need to help each other because we are all, in the end, only people " , witness Edin.
The author explained that the book will go into use in the schools where they will be used as a teaching tool in the cases studied religious facilities.
"It's better and more beautiful than to write a whole book, especially in these difficult times passing Muslims not only in America but also elsewhere in the world," says Edin Hajderovac.
Finally, one more beautiful message left in the world from Zavidovici. The work of two masters of the Muslim faith, the son and grandson of Hajj Suleiman Hajderovac, who have done honor to the religious head of Catholics will be something that will be talked about and in many American homes.
Source: Al Jazeera