October 01, 2003
Interfaith service promotes tolerance, Gandhi’s message
Representatives of a dozen faiths will gather Thursday in downtown Charleston to promote a message of universal tolerance.
“Stop the Hate: Celebrate Diversity,” a service sponsored by the West Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy in Charleston, takes place from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Davis Park between Capitol and Summers streets.
Susan Allen, president of the center, said people of Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Bahai, Quaker, Unitarian Universalist, Hindu, Jain, Buddhist, American Indian, Sikh and Wiccan traditions will participate in the fifth annual event.
“In the past, it’s been what the faith groups feel about tolerance of others,” she said. “This year, we’re focusing on faith groups appreciating other faith groups. It shouldn’t be the exact same thing every year. Otherwise, it gets boring.”
However, the themes of tolerance and appreciation of religious differences really are not so different.
“If we can make people realize that within tolerance of other people, we can develop respect of other faith groups, it will help make people more aware of the fact that we should not be hating each other,” Allen said.
The interfaith service started on a national level and then was promoted locally by the West Virginia Council of Churches. It always takes place on the first Thursday in October, which this year ties in with an international day of celebration dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi, the Hindu spiritual leader who helped guide India to independence.
“We are tying this year’s event more toward Gandhi,” Allen said. “Gandhi is an international symbol of peace and this is seen as an event working toward peace, so they go together.”
She said she hopes those who attend the service will leave with a sense that all religions work toward a common goal that is especially important given today’s international political climate.
“Every faith group professes peace and tolerance. And we need to live by that. You’ve got to start where you are — this is where we are today. We have to start now.”
“Stop the Hate: Celebrate Diversity,” which is free and open to the public, also will feature music coordinated by Ron Sowell and readings related to Gandhi. For information about the event, call Allen at 346-4402 or Carol Warren at 343-3360.
To contact staff writer Marina Hendricks, use e-mail or call 348-4881.
©Copyright 2003, The Charleston Gazette (WV, USA)
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