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Faiths come together in wake of terror

Worshipers of all stripes bring their curiosity to the 'Diversity Faire.'

November 11, 2001

The Orange County Register

Irvine -- Nancy Knipe didn't know how to reach out to members of different faiths after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, so she and a handful of friends from her Unitarian Universalist church visited a Mission Viejo mosque.

After the imam explained some key tenets of Islam, Knipe and her friends joined Muslim women behind a screen for worship. The Muslim women thanked her for being there, Knipe said.

"We just hugged each other," said Knipe, 76, of Capistrano Beach. "It was wonderful. It felt so good. That was a spiritual moment. All religions are about love."

The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks sparked a new curiosity about spirituality in all its forms and a new willingness to listen to each other, said about 125 participants in Saturday's eighth-annual Religious Diversity Faire at the University of California, Irvine, Student Center.

Previous fairs have featured lectures on different faiths, but Saturday's event gave ordinary people a chance to talk about how they integrate faith into their everyday lives, said Kay Lindahl, a fair board member.

In about a dozen bunches around the room, participants shared their common spiritual experiences as they explored others' beliefs.

Sitting in a small circle with Knipe were seven others, all of different faiths, including a Catholic woman, a pagan philosopher and an Egyptian Orthodox Coptic priest.

Knipe's circle shrunk smaller and smaller as the eight participants inched forward in their seats, their knees bumping up against their neighbors'.

The discussion never grew angry or heated. The men and women, Buddhists and Bahais, students and senior citizens wanted only to probe each others' beliefs.

"My challenge is that I've decided that everybody is good," Knipe said of the terror attacks. "It's an article of my faith. There's lots of evidence to the contrary, but I'm going to act like that. I have to treat other people as if they're born good."

The most common thread running through religion is to love one another, members of Knipe's circle agreed.

"All people are created good, but we are free to do good or to do evil," said the Rev. Gregory Bishay, priest at a Coptic Christian church in Orange. "With some people, you have to dig very, very deep - up to the moment of their birth - to find the good."

Encouraging the good in others with small, daily gestures is part of a new "respect" mentality in the post-Sept. 11 world, said Gladys Schadan, who is a Bahai.

"Prior to 9/11, people were hostile," said Schadan, who has seen more people letting other drivers into their lanes, shoppers being patient in grocery stores lines and co-workers being kind to each other. "Now people are beginning to treat human beings as maybe the way we should've been before 9/11."

©Copyright 2001, The Orange County Register

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