Bahai News -- The Columbian - Who We Are: Religious ties grow out of terror

Who We Are: Religious ties grow out of terror

Sunday, February 23, 2003
By KELLY ADAMS, Columbian staff writer

One of the results in Clark County of the 9/11 attacks has been a new awareness of faiths other than Christianity.

"We're now talking to each other," said Ed Evans, pastor of Vancouver's First Congregational Church. "We've gained a broader appreciation of the sensitivities of other people."

While Christianity remains the predominant religion here, there are active Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist and Baha'i communities.

As people have come here from other countries, they've brought their spiritual practices with them. And people born and raised locally have been drawn to faiths outside of Christianity.

The county is also home to about 100 Jewish families, with efforts under way to hire their first paid rabbi.

At 200 members, Baha'i is one of the fastest-growing and newest religions to assemble in Clark County.

Baha'is believe the deities from the major religions were each messengers of God. The faith lacks some of the traditional trappings of mainline churches. There's no designated clergy, and services are in members' homes.

Members of the Sikh religion, after spending more than 15 years meeting in private homes and at Portland State University, opened a Vancouver temple last year.

About 100 families in Clark County are followers of the faith, which has its roots in the Punjab region of Northern India. Sikhs embrace a belief in one God and equality. They also believe in living in the world rather than retreating to monasteries.

About 500 Muslim families live in Clark County, said Shaaban Naim, president of the Islamic Society of Southwest Washington. While many immigrated from traditionally Muslim countries such as Bosnia and Pakistan, others are American-born people who were raised in other faiths, Naim said.

"We have people named George and Frank who are curious about the religion," Naim said. They are drawn for a variety of reasons; some because of the message of equality, others for the structure the religion provides.

"Islam is a way of life; it's not just a religion," he said. "You live it."

Other faiths, while established in the United States, reflect less conventional forms of spirituality.

Clark County has thriving congregations of Unitarian Universalists and Christian Scientists.

Even the traditional churches reflect the diversity of Clark County. There are Chinese, Korean and Russian evangelical Christian churches while the Methodist and Lutheran faiths both have several denominations within them.

"There's diversity within each one of those groups," said Tom Tucker, pastor of the East Vancouver United Methodist Church and president of the Interfaith Association.

©Copyright 2003, The Columbian (WA, USA)

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