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Publication Date: February 10, 2003

Interfaith panel discusses religion

David Nemcok/O'Collegian
Shree Vineekar talks about peace as it relates to Hinduism in a Panel discussion Sunday in the Stillwater Community Center.

Parves Shahid
Staff Writer

Representatives from six faiths highlighted the importance of applying peace in their religious convictions and in their daily lives.

The issue was discussed during an interfaith panel discussion at the Stillwater Community Center Sunday and was sponsored by the Stillwater Baha’i Community and the Oklahoma State University Baha’i Club.

Rocky Salim, moderator of the discussion and public information officer for the Stillwater Assembly, said the Baha’is believed in the “unification of mankind” and also the belief that all “religions are inspired by God.”

Salim said the Baha’is wanted to promote the idea of peace and harmony and sponsored the discussion so people could understand each others faiths better and realize the similarities rather than the differences.

Dr. ShreeKumar Vinekar, University of Oklahoma Medical Center faculty member, talked about peace from the Hindu point of view and started by saying “Namaste,” which means I bow to you.

Vinekar said Namaste, also a gesture, involves two hands joining together means “You and I are very much alike and can be one to work together.”

“All religion have the same truths,” Vinekar said.

Clarence Cunningham, a professor emeritus of OSU since 1985, said in the Quaker faith “everyone is a friend.” He explained his belief that “There is God in all people” and how basically everyone is a pacifist.

“The best way (to make peace) is through dialogue and communication,” Cunningham said. “Through communication there can be common ground.” The Rev. Felicia Urbanski from the Unitarian Universalist Church of Stillwater talked about the value of freedom and how peace came through the “human experience” and not through prescribed texts.

Michel Goldstein, an electrical engineering doctoral student, gave a Jewish perspective on peace.

“The world is sustained by three things peace, judgment and truth,” Goldstein said. “And when truth collides with peace, peace wins as it is necessary to lie for peace.”

Brian Deer, graduate teaching assistant in the philosophy department, extended the Buddhist vision of peace and shared his views on how peace is attained when you live and focus on the moment.

“Don’t think above and beyond become aware of what you are doing,” Deer said. The last panelist, Michael Bigler, member of the Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Stillwater, spoke about the Baha’i religion and on the importance of taking care of people and said “raising children properly is important for man to get along with each other.”

Bigler also spoke about the importance of true knowledge, academic knowledge and racial unity.

“We need to bring all this into the family in order to change the world.”

About 50 appreciative people attended the discussion.

“I was very stimulated by the different points of view and found them to be helpful in forming my own views of what the purpose of human beings are, which to me is to take care of one another and overcome our differences,” said Glen Bays, Stillwater resident and retired Christian minister.

“I learned that we have to find peace within our individual selves first of all, and then we can act peacefully within the groups we belong to and by being peaceful we can be beneficial people in the world.”

Salim said the cold weather might have prevented even more people from attending the discussion.

“I was surprised and pleased with the turnout. In the future maybe we should dedicate a weekend for these types of discussions,” he said.

Parves Shahid can be reached via email at

©Copyright 2003, The Daily O'Collegian (Oklahoma State University, OK, USA)

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