Talking religion helps
Oct. 10, 2003
Religion is said to be one of the topics to avoid discussing in order to get along.
However, about 140 people proved that idea wrong Thursday night.
That’s the estimated turnout at an event aimed at educating people about different religions
The event, “Dialogue with Islam,” was held at the Northwest Indiana Islamic Center. The Religious Communities Task Force of United for a Purpose — a group committed to furthering religious tolerance, sponsored the event.
Before going to “Dialogue with Islam,” audience member Kimberly Smith, 34, of Valparaiso said she had a negative impression of some religions other than hers.
“I was ignorant of Islam. The same was true of the Jewish religion,” said Smith, who is of the Bahai faith. “Being here, I saw unity, and I saw people of different faiths striving to serve God.”
The “Dialogue with Islam” started with area clergy of various faiths explaining their religions and how their religions perceive other religions.
After the presentations from area clergy of various faiths, audience members were randomly divided into smaller groups to discuss related issues.
Clergy who spoke included Rabbi Stanley Halpern of Temple Israel in Gary, Lead Pastor Rich Schmidt of Living Hope Community Church in Valparaiso, Anglican minister The Rev. Patrick Ormos of St. Peter Episcopal Church in Valparaiso, Deacon Steve Zubell of the Gary Catholic Diocese, and Imam Mongy El Quesny of the Northwest Indiana Islamic Center.
Jim Jorgensen served as moderator, filling in for Valparaiso Mayor David Butterfield, who was sick with laryngitis.
Karen Marben, 46, of Valparaiso said as a lifelong Catholic, she had been naive about other religions. “Dialogue with Islam” strengthens her hope of growth in religious tolerance: “We are reminded that we are not out there all by ourselves, no matter what our religions are.”
Azza Shaaban, 34, of Crown Point said “Dialogue with Islam” reinforces what her religion (Islam) teaches her: “People can get together, and we can live in peace and harmony together.”
Ellen Silberman, 78, of Valparaiso said it was good to hear about the similarities in the different faiths.
“We should concentrate on those similarities and really get to know each other as people,” said Silberman, who is Jewish.
“We need to recognize that lots of things are done in the name of religion, but some of those things are really done in the name of politics,” she said.
Reporter Lorell Fleming
can be reached at 648-3102
or by email@example.com.
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