Interfaith Dialogue addresses religious connections


Lynandro SimmonsGeneral Assignment Reporter

As part of their effort to promote 64 Days of Nonviolence, Southern hosted an Interfaith Dialogue on Wednesday March, 29.

Rosayln Amenta, assistant to the dean of student affairs and moderator of the event, said the theme of the panel was to show unity.

“We are all one, interlocked in faith,” said Amenta.

The Interfaith Dialogue – which had speakers for Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, and Christianity – was created to find similarities in the religions instead of focusing on differences, she said. Clearly all of the religions show a connection, said Amenta.

Winnie Shyam, from library services, said one of the principles of Hinduism is the oneness of humanity.

“The concept of stranger does not exist,” said Shyam. “Hinduism believes everyone is the same.”

The water, the elements, everything is considered one in Hinduism. Another teaching of Hinduism is treating people respectfully and with hospitality.

“Even in ancient times Hindus welcomed people from different institutions,” she said.

Martin Laskin, from the department of sociology and speaker for Judaism, said in the Bible there is a lot that shows how people should deal with current issues in society and the importance of equality.

“We complicate this thing of religion,” said Laskin.

In the Bible, Laskin said it is repeated many times to treat people kindly. He also said it is repeated in the Bible that there should be one law, for both the citizen and strangers that reside. This means that no matter what, everybody should be treated the same, he said.

Deacon Patrick Moran from the Interfaith Office said that if a person follows Christianity’s teachings there is no such thing as a stranger.

“We are all descended from the first man and woman,” he said. “We are all brothers and sisters.”

What happens to one person, happens to everyone, he said. There should be no fear of a stranger because everybody is a part of one connected family.

Changshen Shih, a professor for women’s studies in religion, said in Buddhism the idea of someone being a stranger has a deeper meaning.

“In this way it sounds opposed to something,” she said. “For Buddhist teachings we become the stranger.”

Shih said that in Buddhism people try to let go of social identities and other concepts given by society. She also said that Buddhism teaches her to reflect on why fear is associated with people that are considered strangers. She said this fear is what leads to xenophobia, or as she put it “fear of the difference.”

“The fear itself is problematic,” she said. “That’s why we have to reflect on that.”

Shih said there are people that fear Muslims currently and have never even seen one.

Amal Abdel Raouf, a computer science professor, said in the Quran there are messages that promote people to get to know other people, even if they’re different. Having diverse people in the same place is an advantage not a disadvantage, she said.

Raouf said that one of the things Muslims are required to do is give to strangers who are in need of help. This creates a better sense of unity with people, she said.

“We have to learn from each other,” said Raouf. “We all have to help each other.”

Photo Credit: Lynandro Simmons

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