Bahai News - Dialogue Aimed At Preserving Religious Freedom
Dialogue Aimed At Preserving Religious Freedom
"They don't believe in Jesus?"
Depending on the context of the conversation, "they" might be Jews, Hindus,
When I speak about religion reporting in Christian churches, I'm often
asked that question after describing the wonderful complexity of religious
belief represented in Western Virginia.
Because Christianity is so dominant - perhaps in excess of 90 percent of
the population in these parts - it's easy to forget that there are residents
who are not Christians. And many Christians hereabouts just haven't had much
contact with folks who don't believe the same things they do.
For that matter, it's easy to forget that there is pretty wide disagreement
within Christianity about what its basic tenets should be.
Most Christians here are perfectly happy to "live and let live" in terms of
the religious beliefs of their neighbors - the wedding of a Baptist and a
Methodist is no longer usually considered a "mixed marriage."
But a surprising number of Christians find the non-Christian religions
completely baffling. They don't know the difference between a Buddhist and
a Baha'i, and sometimes don't even realize that there are differences.
People in those minority faiths, however, don't forget that the
misunderstandings and ignorance of their beliefs are common. And they
realize that the best way to clear those up is by talking about what they
For the third consecutive year, a small group will gather in Roanoke today
to talk about their religious differences in an attempt to help each other
better understand their neighbors.
At 3 p.m., in Ebenezer AME Church, 1565 Lafayette Blvd. N.W., an interfaith
community dialogue will continue.
Speakers representing several religious traditions will take a few minutes
to address an intriguing topic: "One, God, One Humanity - How does this
faith principle contribute to the concept of freedom in America?"
The speakers will offer Islamic, Hindu, Jewish, Baha'i, Unitarian and
Christian perspectives. Then all the participants will spend the next 30 or
40 minutes sharing their thoughts on the subject as well.
"This is not a debate," said organizer Khalil Shadeed, but a matter of
sharing information. The goal is to share knowledge beyond the stereotypes
of doctrine, he said.
Shadeed is a Henry County native who lives in Maryland. He also is a member
of the 8-year-old Unity Interfaith Conference Group that helped organize
this event and numerous others like it around the country.
Perhaps 50 people attended last year's dialogue in Roanoke, he said.
As an outsider, Shadeed sees Roanoke as a tolerant place with a willingness
by its residents to learn about others' beliefs. Today's dialogue is one
more way to help foster that, he said.
"We've set about to educate ourselves, as well as to share our traditions
with others," he said.
And he sees it not only as the religiously correct thing to do, but as the
patriotic thing to do.
"We love America," he said, and the people who participate in such dialogues
are helping foster a climate that will ensure that our religious freedoms
"We're doing what they tell us not to do, discussing religion and politics,"
Shadeed said with a laugh. "It seems to be working real well."
Cody Lowe can be reached at 981-3425 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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