Bahai News - Fresnans publish belief book

Fresnans publish belief book

Multifaith group developed the book of 8 religions to aid talks.

By John G. Taylor
The Fresno Bee

(Published September 30, 2000)

Except for the phone book, Fresno doesn't have an all-encompassing directory of houses of worship. But it now has a to-the-point guide for eight major religions.

A Fresno group has just published "A Multifaith Handbook," a tool developed by and principally targeted for those "rejoicing in the rich diversity of our religious and spiritual traditions."

That's drawn from the mission statement of the Fresno Multifaith Exchange, which was founded in 1997.

The book discusses the origins, sacred texts, beliefs and practices of the Bahai, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Jewish, Sikh and Unitarian Universalist traditions.

"We wanted factual, historical information without conversion as a goal," said Anidelle Flint. She and Linda Mack coordinated the effort with help from more than 20 other people.

It's available to the public for a donation through Fresno Metro Ministry, the social justice ministry that's the home base for the multifaith group.

However, the 50-page book is principally intended to assist the 35 to 50 curious people who meet once a month for nine months to learn about the Valley's pluralistic culture.

Previously, individuals brought in pamphlets or made documents available at their own expense for the meetings, which include a one-hour presentation followed by another hour of small-group discussions and questions.

"It was a financial burden for some. We often got information that was uneven," Flint said.

So, thanks to $2,000 in donations and four months of hard work, there is now a Reader's Digest-like condensation. Among the contents:

Unitarian Universalists honor all religious traditions while objecting to any one faith imposing its creed on another.

Sikhs are expected to rise before dawn to bathe and to meditate on the name of God.

Apart from the Koran, Muslims look for guidance in the sunnah, the record of the prophet Muhammad's life.

"It's more than just a study group," Flint said. "The essence of pluralism is encounter and dialogue.

"There is a core commonality that allows them to see into one another's hearts. This is a very moving experience."

Now in its fourth year, the exchange asks participants to commit to attend for nine months. Apart from the discussion, there is a tour each month of a site particular to one faith. In October, that will occur at a Hindu temple in Clovis.

A successor group has formed from some who have gone through the orientation. "They discuss particular issues from the viewpoints of different faiths," said Bette Noblett, who has supported the exchange and its precursor, the Fresno Lay Institute of Theology.

"I've always wanted to see this kind of cooperation," she said.

"The Eastern religions to me have always been an epiphany," she said, "and the building of friendships."

Noblett said participants have become so attuned to various religious dietary requirements that during the annual get-acquainted potlucks, without any advance instructions, only vegetarian foods are brought.

©Copyright 2000, The Fresno Bee

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