Bahai News - Religions look for common ground

Religions look for common ground

Wednesday, January 16, 2002

By Kathleen A. Shaw
Telegram & Gazette Staff

WORCESTER-- Do Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists and Bahais have anything in common?
They certainly do, say members of the Interreligious Forum sponsored by the National Conference on Community and Justice.
The forum just finished a long-term study among the major faith organizations in Central Massachusetts and distilled a statement of shared values that are held by all.
The group, headed by Catholic Bishop Daniel P. Reilly, has been quietly meeting at the chancery building since 1998 and has included leaders from all of the area's major religions.
“What have we gained by all this?” the bishop said. “In this day and age, especially since Sept. 11, we need to try and dispel ignorance. We need to come to know one another better.”
A statement of shared values and behaviors is scheduled to be “rolled out” Feb. 5 at a meeting of community and faith leaders to be held at the College of the Holy Cross. More than 2,000 invitations are being sent out, according to Fran Manocchio, executive director of the NCCJ.
The program, to be held from 3 to 5:30 p.m. in the Hogan Center Ballroom, also is sponsored by the Center for Religion, Ethics and Culture at the college and will include broad-based religious involvement.
Forum members concluded that people of different religious traditions hold these values in common:

  • Optimism and hope for the future as evidenced by community building, enthusiasm, a positive view of others and an emphasis on good news.
  • Compassion as evidenced by caring, love and seeking the best in others and economic justice for everyone.
  • Respect for all cultures and faiths as evidenced by avoiding arrogance and denigration, accepting differences and seeking understanding.
  • Acceptance of responsibility as evidenced by making and following through on commitments, accepting consequences for good and bad behaviors and balancing individual rights with responsibilities to the community.
  • Civility in dealing with disagreement as evidenced by avoiding violence and confrontational argument and seeking win-win solutions and reconciliation. Techniques include active listening, cooperative problem solving, conflict resolution, mediation and apology.
  • Honesty as evidenced by truthfulness, reliability and being trusted by others.
  • Courage as shown by doing what is right, even at some risk.
    Sponsors of the statement are: Bishop Reilly, Rahaim A. Al-Kaleem, Muslim; the Rev. Steven Alspach, United Church of Christ; the Rev. Robert S. Bachelder, United Church of Christ; Rabbi Seth Bernstein; the Rev. Rebecca S. Brown, Episcopal; Kathleen Cushing, Catholic; William P. Densmore, Unitarian-Universalist; Sister Therese Dion, Catholic; Mark Griffin, Bahai; the Rev. Paul D. Kennedy, Lutheran; Ram S. Upadhyay, Hindu; Fran Manocchio, Unitarian-Universalist; Charles McManus, Catholic; Nathaniel Needle, Buddhist; the Rev. Aaron R. Payson, Unitarian-Universalist; Donald J. Peters, Eastern Orthodox; Barbara Sullivan, Society of Friends (Quaker); Michael True, Society of Friends (Quaker); Carlton A. Watson, Jewish.
    Other forum members include David Coyne of Hillel at Clark University; Frank Kartheiser of Worcester Interfaith; Rabbi Jordan Millstein of Temple Emanuel; and the Rev. Hylanie Chan-Williams.
    Bishop Reilly told the editorial board of the Telegram & Gazette yesterday that the group visited various places of worship, including the new Hindu temple in Oxford. The group has attended services at places such as Temple Sinai, the Friends Meeting House and local mosques.
    The bishop said, speaking for his church, he would like to see the statement put out to all his parishes and have people sit down and hold discussions on these values and how to implement them on a local level.
    Ms. Manocchio said the interfaith group goals are to develop the values statement and see it implemented at all levels of the communities. Mr. Densmore, member of First Unitarian Church, said the group has spoken to James A. Caradonio, superintendent of the Worcester public schools, who wants to use the statement in a special program for teachers. Mr. Densmore said he checked with the state education department, which said it is permissible to teach about religion in public schools.


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