Continued news about conflicts between faith groups around the globe inspired interfaith discussions this week in Morgantown. A Forum on Religious Diversity explored what different faiths teach about social justice, tolerance, and compassion.
Faith leaders met inside the Greater Saint Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church to share their faiths’ teachings on social justice, tolerance, and compassion with members of the community. The turnout was a postcard of diversity. 100 people of different ages, races, and religions filled the Methodist pews to listen to the interfaith dialogue.
Co-Chair for the Community Coalition for Social Justice, Rosa Becker, said her group organized the event after one of their monthly meetings.
“I think we were bemoaning the state of the world,” Becker said. “There’s been so much violence recently, often in the name of religion. I think we were just thinking, ‘What can we do?’ Our mission is to promote tolerance.”
The Community Coalition for Social Justice is a coalition of organizations and individuals in the Morgantown area dedicated to promoting the principles of social and economic justice. Co-Chair Susan Brown added that Morgantown is well-suited for such inter-faith discussions.
“There’s such a diversity of religions in this community that we felt this is the perfect town for us to help educate people about other religions,” Brown said, “Because education is key to tolerance. And that’s what we hope to convey tonight.”
Tolerance, or the ability to have sympathy for beliefs that may not be our own, is just one thought the forum explored. The social justice group asked each of six religious leaders two questions:
- What does your religion teach about social justice and tolerance?
- What do you teach about compassion?
Rev. Georgia Morrow (African Methodist Episcopal Church):
Bradley Wilson (Baha’i):
Imam Sohail Chaundry (Islam):
Julie Brefczynski-Lewis (Buddhism):
Rabbi Joe Hample (Judaism):
Sumidra Reddy (Hinduism):
There were many shared values connecting the six faiths represented in the forum like compassion and service to the poor, but perhaps the most prominent and repeated value was the idea of justice together with action.
The other unanimous sentiments were that these kinds of dialogues are key in today’s global society, and that there’s no room in the world for fanaticism.