Posted on: Saturday, May 31, 2003
Interfaith issues come to forefront
Advertiser Religion & Ethics Writer
Witness: The Interfaith Open Table is going strong; the newly created Believers All Network continues to grow; and an evening program May 13 titled "Finding Common Ground: An Evening of Spiritual Understanding" drew about 230 people to Punahou School.
Believers All Network founder Saleem Ahmed, who will represent the Muslim viewpoint in an upcoming lecture program, applauds this trend as essential.
"Worldwide, communication flow has become so easy, we find so many people sowing hate," said Ahmed, the author of "Beyond Veil and Holy War: Islam Teachings and Muslim Practices with Biblical Comparisons."
"Unfortunately, not enough (is) going the other way around. Each side looks as itself as the chosen people. That seems to reinforce the concept of 'holier than thou.' When we start looking at interfaith issues, you come out with a different perspective."
In conducting research for his book, Ahmed found that, traditionally, Muslims believe God sent 124,000 prophets all over the world, but the Quran mentions only about 20.
"I found myself wondering who could be the others," said Ahmed, who counts Buddha, Jesus and Confucius as other prophets and holy men.
He believes looking at different faiths allows a person to realize the aim is to be righteous and treat people equally.
"The message is always the same," he said. "People have forgotten the message and given more importance to the messenger."
But here in Hawai'i, the interfaith movement is coming along, he has discovered.
"In Hawai'i, there is such a tolerance and aloha spirit, the idea of Believers All Network was warmly received," he said.
With that in mind, the University of Hawai'i Sakamaki Extraordinary Lecture Series can be seen as extending the trend with its upcoming program, "World Religions, World Peace: Finding Common Ground."
Last week, about 120 people attended a free lecture to hear three panelists discuss "Religions, Religious Fundamentalism and Domestic Terrorism."
In many ways, the second in the two-part program is a reprise of the earlier Punahou discussion, said Gregg Kinkley, an attorney who represented Judaism at that event.
This time, it's with a twist.
"We had a meeting at Saleem's house, and between sips of tea and a potluck dinner, decided what we were going to do," he said. "This time, we're going to try to say more about ethics, ... plant it more fully. For instance, what would a good Jew be or do? What would a good Buddhist be or do?
"... Each (panelist) will give a five-minute presentation, during which, fantastically, they will not only lay bare the fundamentals of their faith, but address a triad of questions, such as 'Are we all praying to the same God under different names?' and 'Does this creator charge us with leading a righteous life?' and finally, the Rodney King phrase, 'Can't we all come together in some sort of community?'"
Panel moderator Cromwell Crawford, the head of the UH-Manoa religion department, will begin the program with a discussion of ethics in religion.
The Punahou and UH programs started out separately, Ahmed points out. A representative from UH approached him about the same time that he was giving talks for high school classes. He got to talking with Chaplain Bob Ganung, who also teaches a world religions class, and that led to the very successful May 13 event.
"We're hoping to re-gather (on the) same ground," Ahmed said.
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