The Importance Of Interfaith Understanding

Good afternoon, welcome to the Commonwealth Club of California I’m Celia Menchel chair of the clubs member LED Middle East forum One of many member LED forums that does a variety of programming at the Commonwealth Club The next Middle East forum event is the fourth annual Trump and the Middle East panel our

Panelists will discuss the last year the policies of Trump in the Middle East you can find out more about these and other upcoming programs at Commonwealth Club dot org and If you have questions for our speakers today, would you please submit them via?

Chat and I would now like to thank a few people I’ll begin with Marc Kirschner the director of audio and visual Services at the Commonwealth Club. I’d like to thank the Graduate theological Union rabbi, Daniel layman The United religions initiative and the San Francisco interfaith council for assistance with this program. I

Also would like to give a very special. Thank you to Michael Pappas who in one word is a mensch He has helped me so much over the years moderating many programs and so helpful and Dedicated to the common good Would you please welcome Michael Pappas?

Thank you so very much Celia and thank you for your hard work and all of the love you put into this Good afternoon and welcome to today’s virtual meeting of the Commonwealth Club, California we also welcome our listening and Internet audiences and invite everyone to visit us at WWF club you are G

Today’s program and the club’s new virtual efforts are generously supported by the Chan Zuckerberg initiative and a collaborative of local funders and donors We are grateful for their support and hope others will follow their example and support the club during these uncertain times

I’m Michael Pappas executive director of the San Francisco interfaith council and I’ll be moderator for today’s program called the importance of interfaith understanding allow me now to offer a brief overview of today’s subject as the executive director of an

Organization whose mission is to bring people of different faiths together to celebrate our rich diverse spiritual and religious traditions build understanding and serve our community I’ve observed that the importance of interfaith understanding is at no time more significant than in times of crises

We seem to naturally come together and desire to build interfaith understanding at times of anti-semitic attacks Islamophobic attacks terrorist attacks on houses of worship Attacks on human and civil rights to name a few today. We find ourselves in the midst of a very different kind of attack an

Unprecedented public health crisis from the outset we’ve heard scapegoating rhetoric from the highest echelons against Asian people as a way of placing blame for the pandemic and At the same time interestingly When first called upon to shelter in place

10 weeks ago the three major Abrahamic faiths were preparing to enter into their holiest of seasons But the Jews it was Passover with a message of liberation over oppression for the Christians It was Easter the triumph of life

Over suffering and death and for our Muslim sisters and brothers who were preparing for a month-long of ascetic practices to better come to Relationship with their creator the planet one another in themselves to become better people This was a time of great

Introspection, it is my hope that as we discussed the importance of interfaith understanding That today we do so through the lens of the present corona virus and how interfaith understanding Can help us emerge from this season of physical economic and spiritual struggle more enlightened sisters and brothers of faith

And now it is my pleasure to introduce our distinguished panel. Allow me to begin with Masha being Dalla, Marcia beam is a religious motivational speaker and humanitarian with a master’s degree in Islamic studies presently she is pursuing a doctorate in Islamic studies at the Graduate theological you

Margene would you please begin our program with your remarks? Hello everyone, and thank you Michael for that generous introduction I thank God for giving me this opportunity to share this esteemed panel with everyone and to be able to serve all those who have Joined in and on listening in live

For my opening remarks I would begin with a greeting of peace to everyone Salam to help whoever is joining us and I’d like us to think about Internally jia city and about this interfaith Communication that we are aiming to bring into this world

I’d like to think about it from how we arrived at this place where we died illogically engage with one another how we proceed in that location and What we take away from there as we move away from an enriched dialogue

I think it’s so important to be mindful that when we arrive into an inter-religious engagement that we have to be cognizant that there are some traditions that are Minority traditions and they somehow feel an extra burden of having to explain themselves so the premise with which we arrive into a dialogue is

Very important and as important as to the different subjects that we’re going to speak about for the longest time I think the premise with which we used to engage in dialogue with one another was either due to colonization You know

You want to learn about the other so that you can subdue the other you have a history of learning about the other? just because you’re afraid of the other and You just want to come out there and say oh you’re not as scary as I thought you were

Nice to meet you. All those might be the crises resolutions that we might have at this point But I think the beautiful way to arrive at an interval Egeus or an interfaith dialogue is perhaps what is inspired at least for me from the Quran which is the sacred text of the Muslims and

And that talks about Engaging with the other at a human level not at a religious level not at a cultural level not at a gendered level but as another human being and the famous verse of the Quran which is 49:13, which says? You know enough anak now calm min Beca danwoah antha

Which are now come sure Obon Merkabah? We created you in male and female and we distributed you in different tribes and nations Lita RF oooh so that you may get to know one another and learn from one another this in no way is an indication of

Supremacy in the a chemical in the mahi at Karim the one who is virtuous and the eyes of God is the one who is God weary and who is responsible as a human being so I I think that that sets a premise of how you

Arrive at it you arrive at it wanting to know the human other Another religious other or the cultural other and once you arrive there you engage with different Modalities and and I’m so blessed to be at the gtu where we have this inter-religious environment where we can study about

Different faiths religions based on texts context spirituality Pilgrimage there is so much that we share with one another as human beings and and because I’m in the sacred text Department I think our text and the multiplicity in which people understand and

Render those texts and actually emulate those texts is is provides us with a plethora Of opportunities to engage with we also come about and engage with social concerns. We look at the coronavirus for example you know the pandemic that were it that we were in we

Approached it from a moral mandate point of view from each of our traditions We had a moral mandate to seek out the other and to reach out to the other And I think over this pandemic we were able to share smiles. We were able to share stories

We were able to share support for one another even though we were sheltered in place and I think the the final point that I feel I can make at least for my opening remarks is how we move forward from there

So when we come in we come in realizing that sometimes this is an extra burden For those who are minority traditions when we’re in there We’re actually engaging with text with context with social concerns with issues around gender with issues aren’t poverty refugees and when we move away from there, I

Think it is. So important to realize that we have only engaged with one rendition or one part of a diverse tradition, so what I might have engaged with is perhaps One of the several intersections in which in which aid religious Trent tradition?

Manifests itself. So if I speak here today, I’m only a part of a multiplicity of Ways in which Muslims express their faith and a diverse understanding of different? intersectionalities of geographic location of language of culture and that is where I speak from so when I walk away

I know that I’m not really speaking for us. I’ve gotten to know an entire tradition No, it’s just that one part and Islam just like any other tradition is not a monolith It has several and diverse ways in which people, you know render their faith and express their spirituality

So I think just to wrap that all up how we arrived What we engage with and how we leave is very important to a successful and dialogical Engagement and inter-religious faith. Thank you Thank you so very much much a beam We look forward to asking you some questions in a few minutes

But now I’d like to introduce the right Reverend William swing the former Episcopal bishop of California and the founding trustee and president of the United religions initiative my dear friend bishop swing the floor is yours Thank you, Michael Wonderful to be with Majah Dean and Sam today

They come from the gtu the Graduate theological Union over in Berkeley over 40 years ago various denominations Decided instead of just studying together. Why don’t we put our libraries together why don’t we have classes so that people from one religion or one denomination can get to know other people and study other traditions

This is such a gem In the Bay Area. It’s one of the largest interfaith libraries in the world, by the way But Sam teaches there and Raja Dean Dean is getting a PhD there inshallah But this is not the way it is all over the world There are places in the world where?

There are schools that teach people of one religion to hate the people of another religion And there’s a lot of money behind those groups They hundreds of millions of dollars. They send people all over the place to build schools to teach children to hate people with other religions

But that’s not just in schools That that’s in little groups, we’re in Charlottesville, Virginia people can go down the street saying the Jews will replaces or In Evidently Christianity is the most persecuted religion in the world I’ve seen statistics on that

Muslims are persecuted. There are there are schools of thought there are centers of thought that are churning out hatred Interfaith hatred Every day there have got to be people on the other side Who are putting up? The opposite that we can move farther as a civilization

If the religions can learn to live together study together And love each other and work together for the Civic good And if they do that, you can build a greater civilization than if you start Killing everybody from other other religions

And therefore I just if I had a hat on I take it off to the ggu and to The people I’m on the panel with today The second thing is I represent the United religions initiative and by the way, we are WWWE you are org And if you look that up

Right up at the very top it says interfaith a responses to the coronavirus And if you hit that Then comes down a whole wrath of things about These are the seminars these are the actions. These are The people you can get in touch with these are and all over the world today

People of all kinds of faiths are getting together to serve their communities in the midst of enormous family Norma’s hunger it’s not just I You know somebody hating another religion. It’s a matter. How can we eat? I saw one little story where? These people were standing in line for they said are you?

This religion are you from that religion they say we’re from this religion they said you don’t get food this one gets hurt so it gets it gets very practical Our United religions initiative I went around the world to talk to the Pope and the Dalai Lama and Grand Mufti Xand

Sheikh of al-azhar and Buddhist Wan Buddhist leaders and Chief rabbi and Senate center and I learned that Much easier to work not it with the people at the top of religion because they don’t have much Ability to to stretch

Beyond their own tradition, but grassroots people have a chance to move out into the community and get together Without worrying about too much about doctrine or discipline They can they can find a need in a community and get together from all the different religions and indigenous traditions and

Ethical or spiritual this perspectives and they can form coalition’s cooperation circles to address the needs so we We got into that 20 years ago. We’re now going to be 21 at 20 years old on August or not, June 26 We’ve gone through our teenage years now we’re young adults and

We’re in a hundred in eight countries of the world we’ve got well over a thousand cooperation circles the God well over a million people and We don’t we don’t have a campus we don’t have a building we don’t have overhead

We only have 36 employees all over the world and everybody else is a volunteer There there’s a big heart in the world among people of not only Jewish Muslim Christian, but Buddhist some Hindus and Indigenous tribes there’s a big heart that if if we could tap into that resource

We could change the world. So that’s what we’re doing. And so number one I’m really pleased to be on but these two people from the GTU That’s that’s not my I greatly look up to and number two. I represent URI and glad to be here today Michael my dear friend

Bishops Wang I would be remiss after listening to you if I didn’t make two confessions one is that the San Francisco interfaith council is a cooperation circle of the united religions initiative and we are proud of that and The other two Sam and Maha beam is in a different iteration in life

I served as the interim director of the patriarch athenagoras Orthodox Institute at the gtu and and served on their board and it was very very Rewarding and I know the amazing work that you all are doing So, thank you. And thank you bishops wing for your leaders

Our next panelist is Sam Baron Sean cough who earned his PhD in the history of Judaism at the University of Chicago’s Divinity School he’s an assistant professor of Jewish Studies at the Graduate theological Union at Berkeley and It gives me great pleasure to present Sam

Thank you so much my goal and thank you to bishops wing and some other beings Allah, this is Already a beautiful conversation that’s happening right now And I might just throw another log on the fire to stoke our discussion as we move forward Such an important conversation to have at all times and

Particularly during times of strife when when different groups of all kinds including religions, of course have a Very wily tendency to pit themselves against each other in ways. The Bishop’s wing was alluding to earlier And we are in such a time in a variety of ways

Most acutely most presently the pandemic but all the other all the other divisions remain and in this context, especially I think we can all I hope we can all agree I’m including the listeners here that um That it is counterproductive

To say the least to take a position of my religion as beautiful your religion as ugly My religion is morally good. You are religious morally corrupt. Um But I would like to suggest that it’s also insufficient It’s inadequate to simply take a position of

My religion is beautiful. And your religion is beautiful. My religion is morally good and your religion is morally good. Um See, this is a really strong understandable in many ways tendency in Inter-religious relations and conversations. I think a really common example when this comes up is when we witness

Episodes of violence or bigotry in the name of a particular religious tradition and there’s a real sort of reflex that I think we have to come together and to say those people are Misunderstanding they’re perverting this tradition whose essence is one of love humanism of one of justice and so on and

That is an important message and there’s often truth in that of course But it is also true that each of us Comes from a tradition. It is complicated We each come in and not only the Abrahamic religions that we have in this conversation here but every every tradition Has a complex history

And has its shadows And I would like to suggest that actually here too is really important common ground for us to meet each other around When we sugar coat or oversimplify our traditions and those of our friends We are missing a really important opportunity to for a robust inter-religious encounter and also

An opportunity to engage in really important work of Solidarity to heal this fragmented and wounded world that we’re living in and I’d like to Suggest also that actually maybe counter-intuitively in some ways when we sugar coat and oversimplify our traditions We’re actually Fanning the flames of inter-religious tension in some ways

And I hope that’ll become more clear just in the couple comments that I want to that. I want to bring to light here and this is not just a matter of intellectual honesty or historical accuracy

Although it’s also of course that I want us to appreciate its ways that this is actually an important dimension of love Love for our traditions and in love for each other. I think it’s especially Illuminating to think of this in terms of interpersonal love that when we really love another individual, of course

It’s not just for their greatest strengths and their sort of peak moments, but to really love is to also Look upon and be in relation to their vulnerabilities their mistakes their areas for growth There’s a lot of talk about what it means to love a country these days a lot of people’s accusing

Accusing folks that for example not loving America where there’s a sort of sham Picture of love that is about just waving a flag standing for a national anthem Drawing attention to exceptional qualities of our country without also looking upon the very complicated

Histories and shadows of this country as if to say that to talk about histories of massacres of indigenous people histories of every and ongoing legacies of racism is somehow a failure to love I Think that is a dangerous perspective to take and it applies also to what it means

I’d like to say to love our own religions and to love the traditions of other people around us It’s not just to cherry-pick the verses that resonate with our contemporary values It’s not just a highway it golden ages It’s also to look upon the fact that our traditions invariably

Have teachings that are hurtful offensive We’ve all gone through long periods in artists in the history of our traditions of inflicting physical violence and spiritual violence And to look upon all of this is Truly to be able to bring a robust deep love to the traditions in the Torah in the Hebrew Bible

In Deuteronomy 6:5, we have a line that huffed and fashiona the whole about You shall love God with all of your heart and there’s a there’s a midrashic Teaching on this of what is this kind of love that?

We’re talking about with all of your hearts and the word for heart in Hebrew is love and as you heard the word for your Heart here is live fob. There’s an extra fuck. There’s an extra letter get in here and so the ancient Midrash asked the question of What’s up with that? And?

The suggestion is that this is telling us to love the Schnee is Loretto The answer to the answer with both of your inclinations with your good inclination and your so-called evil inclination and the Text goes on to wonder. What does it mean to love?

With both with up with that with that shadow side with that yetzer Hara And the answer is shallow. Yeah leap ha ha Luke Ohama calm your heart is not divided In relation to the divine and I would add in relation to one another and our traditions. So this is a kind of love

That looks upon the wholeness With a full open heart and I might just quote another Jewish physician of the soul by the name of Sigmund Freud who drew our attention to ways in which When we deny or suppress things that we know to be true that is actually far more

Dangerous and exerts far greater control over us than when we let those things into our conscious awareness and actually Externalize them speak about them not act upon them and I want to be clear about that but to be aware of them and to be open with them and so in our interfaith understanding

Our inter-religious relations, I think that is actually a matter of not just intellectual honesty, but a matter of wholehearted Open I’d love to bring to one another To actually engage with our traditions and with each other’s traditions in their wholeness in a spirit of

Asking the questions of ourselves and one another, how can we grow? Thank you Thank you Sam and now it’s time for our question and answer period I think I’d like to pick up on some of the The themes that you raised as well as mobis

Bishops wing the first question. I’d like to put to Sam and Masha being in particular. I started this Overview of the subject today and mentioned that interfaith understanding Is heightened the interest at least is heightened during times of crises

And I talked a little bit about sign of phobia the hatred in Asian people that has Been the scapegoating and and the playing at our Asian sisters and brothers. I’m wondering in your own cultures and traditions if you have seen a spike in

Islamophobia and anti-semitism and what you would attribute that to? Why do we start with much of being? Yeah, that is that is a very important point that you bring up Michael It seems the whenever there is a crisis in the world. It will bring out the essential character it seems

Sharing away from in such essentialism chat But it brings out what we’re made up of so if there is goodness in someone’s heart, you know they do just go deep down and bring that goodness out and is the crisis that Reveals the goodness in people and sometimes even though we would not

You know want to admit it or would not want to acknowledge it sometimes it even brings out the very dubious From among ourselves. So like every other tradition, I think we’ve also seen

What you say or what you speak off with the Asian population here in the United States. There were countries in the sub Subcontinent in in India, you found that The Muslims were targeted with the same kind of rhetoric and the same kind of hatred that we saw against the Asians here in America

There is no denying that and and it did cause a very real impact on people’s lives on their economy on how they Associated with their neighbors and and with a larger public but I think deep down We should also acknowledge the good work that came out of it

So there was there was an entire community this earlier last month in the month of Ramadan I was invited by the World Federation of Muslim organizations to do a talk on Philanthropy and how all Muslims all over the world United to come to the rescue of those who were being marginalized?

And those who were being fired from their jobs just because they were or you know associated with certain religious tradition So at one side when you do see this coming out on the other side You see that the goodness and the people they’re reaching out

United in solidarity and reaching out to those people who have been Mistreated this way so that is true And we see this is what I’ve seen at least in in In the Muslims and and here I think it in at the San Francisco area

You found the African Muslims who are coming out and they’re concerned about safety and they’re talking about how even when we Reopen the religious, you know churches and organizations That we are giving safety their priority. So I think it brings out a bit of both in people

Thank you for raising that last issue. That’s another question that one of our Audience members has a so we will address that as well Sam. Would you chime in? Yeah, I’ll just say briefly Absolutely anti-semitism has been on the rise lately and that has been bound up with as You emphasized importantly Michael

In and also much of him that’s been bound up with increases in discrimination and marginalization of all minorities and There’s a very long tradition of blaming plagues on Jews And you’ve seen that come up a bit lately

And I think even more so there’s a something that David Nierenberg has brought out in recent book anti Judaism there’s a there’s a long tradition of whenever there is a time of Great ideological shifting and visioning of new ways new new philosophies new economics new politics There is a great tendency to

To point to some oil right to some other to some shadow as the antithesis of whatever it is that you’re envisioning and There’s been a long history of Jews Of course being put into that hot seat of being the other against which these new Visions are articulated and

Today, it’s not just Jews. Of course They’re away. This is something We see all all groups being used in this way, but I think we’re living in a time of great vision Great transformation and upheaval in some ways that are very exciting actually

But I think that that’s also part of this rise of Islamophobia anti-semitism Xenophobia more generally That gets that gets bound up with this and I should say that that happens not to do the both sides But we see that we see that all across cultural spectrums thank you on bishops wing

Feel free to chime in and give your thoughts on this, but I have another question for you and in particular I know you’re a little bit of a philologist and The theme today is the importance of interfaith understanding

My mind importance has always had to do with impact could you give some examples how interfaith understanding? Could lead or has led to importance, you know the word understanding here It connotes two ways of understanding one is in the head Do it. How do I learn about? Judaism

How do I learn about Islam? What is your theology what if what are your rituals? Etc so I learn what’s your language? What what’s your Holy Scripture? And then another way of learning is is just to Know you as a as a Jew know you as a Muslim

And we don’t have to we don’t have to know our sacred texts, but just need to know each other To be citizens to share a common concern for the neighborhood or for the town we live in I remember going to the Vatican in 1996 and I

Was dealing with the Cardinal who was the head of inner religious activities for the Roman Catholic Church and We were talking about interfaith. He said, you know we decided to take Islam seriously 30 years ago. He said in 1930 in 1996 over this we’re talking to 1996. He said

1966 so we got a whole lot of our young scholars to learn Arabic to learn Muslim scripture to learn the geography of Islam around the world And he said we have a cadre of people who really understand Islam

And I I was so impressed by that that that you would make an investment in understanding the other But then after I thought about it It’s also that’s just a few people there are billions and billions of people the world and only a few people really understand

Intellectually understand the language the theology the Etc So so what’s what’s available? What’s available is to understand the other person? The other day I was talking to Ambassador Thomas Graham who has negotiated almost every United States Negotiation with Russia concerning nuclear weapons and we’ve signed some pretty good things like the

NPT non-proliferation treaty which he was the head of The New START talks, etc, etc, which he’s been involved in almost all that He said, you know We wouldn’t know we wouldn’t have gotten anything done or nuclear disarmament between Russia and America if it weren’t for the human relationships that were built up between

The Russian diplomats and our diplomats and their scientists and our scientists and their politicians and our fathers they actually we he Became deep friends, and we’re negotiating we were negotiating as one Human being who really respected the other you and me. I still want to talk about understanding

It’s not interfaith understanding isn’t just what you know It’s also who you know It’s who you respect and who respects you and what you what could you build from that so Interfaith understanding for me. Yeah, it’s a luxury to do it intellectually It’s necessary. It’s important

But but for the masses of people in the world, the real issue is to know to know each other and Marja being said this earlier It’s to know each other as humans That’s it

Thank You Bishop swinging I’m going to pick up because we are speaking with scholars and III I’d like to ask majah being What are some of the ways in which inter religious education equip scholars and practitioners? For dialogue and action and engagement Yeah, thank you Michael for that question

This really is a very I think it’s a necessity at this this point where humanity has arrived here at this place to To be ready to embrace diversity, you know, there is there is just no way that we can complain about it There is just no way we can get around it

Diversity is here to stay and the sooner We embrace it the the faster we will be able to achieve That common good that all of us are trying to arrive at you know in our diversity as human beings So it is so important that we engage with one another, you know as colors

As as as just human being citizens of a country Sharing the same concerns sharing the same challenges and and then I think what I’m getting at with this is It’s so important to know how we are interconnected in in this pain that we all share. So I

Realized that we were going to we were going to have this event when all of us were going to be in a celebratory mode all the three Abrahamic traditions were going to be in some sort of form of a celebration or the other and

Then coin did the coin just flipped and we find ourselves in a suffering mode now and we’re all suffering together and somehow This inter religiosity that that going down to the human Core of one another has connected us and interconnected us in in beautiful ways. So I think

What this does for other scholars is it equips us first by knowing that we’re not just into religious, but we’re also intersectional we all When we’re talking to one another we’re not just talking from that part of a different religion Tradition or a tradition that is different from mine

But it’s also a person in a different location than I am in a different body that I am With different access abilities than I have with different privileges than I have. So Everything that we bring to the table comes from these different intersections different geographical locations different languages different

Cultures so I think you come into this study termed inter-religious study But you leave away from here equipped with a lot more to expand that Conversation with now you can take it into a gender discourse. You can take it into you know, middle-east

Relationships you could take it into geographical. You can take it into calling for justice, and I think I really like this about you know about it this verse of the Quran which says that God really doesn’t like

Making noise if you were to say so love jihad, Ebisu God doesn’t like it when you don’t talk politely Alarm on Gulen except for the one who’s been oppressed, you know, the googles are relaxed for those who are oppressed

They can go out and they can make noise and it’s and it’s totally fine for them to do so So I think when you leave or in inter-religious dialogue you you come out with all these understandings and with all these

You know intricacies and different ways in which we connect and be express ourselves. So at least for me, I find that a very beneficial tool in my toolbox when I engage with someone else on a different level and and you know dialogical II and

Collaborate with them thank you, Michael. Thank you and Sam a companion question here The gtu is known for its inter-religious approach to the study of religions as a professor there and from your vantage point of the GT use Center for Jewish Studies What does this look like in practice?

Are there any aspects of the GT use approach that might be more instructive for interfaith dynamics in the broader world? Thanks for the question And I just want to say first of all I’m obsessed with everything lesser being just said it resonates really profoundly And I’ll just pick up on this point

I just want to highlight at this point if she said which is really a part of my answer that this notion that we come To think about and study inter religiosity and we we nuance that and Texture that in ways that let us see that what we’re studying is also

Intersectionality and that it’s not simply a Jew a Christian and a Muslim walk into a bar as if these are You know three types of human beings in the world But that actually we are all complex

Constellations of identities and positionality is and I will highlight that as something that I think the gtu is doing increasingly well is my is my impression in a direction that I think is really important for Inter-religious studies in religious studies. Um

But yeah in Bishop’s wing and I appreciated your remarks in the beginning where you you noted the Institutional history of the GT you as beingness this union of schools And I think that this that you of the GT you says a lot

We are not striving to be a kind of melting pot of Religious and spiritual people we really are a community of communities. We are a union of centers and schools And what that means to me? Is that while we sort of maintain a bifocal vision in some way we keep in mind

The world at large and what it means to live in a globalised diverse World of people. Um, and we also keep in mind the specificities and particularity z’ of traditions in their in their historical context in their textual hermeneutical dynamics So a good example of this we’re launching a really exciting

In many ways groundbreaking inter-religious Chaplaincy program this fall Directed by kamal of busan sia In the way that this is working is that this is training people to do spiritual care with diverse populations in all kinds of contexts and settings but also part of the training is to

Also complete a master’s in one of the particular centers of the gtu So to say that we want to train you in these sort of broad humanist Universalist traditions of spiritual care, but we also

Value being rooted in a particular tradition and speaking from place of being in forms. I think that that that bifocal vision of keeping the world at large in mind while also being sensitive and it’s used the particularity of different traditions and different communities is something that the gtu does remarkably well and

I think does shed light on broader possibilities in the world Thank you You know when when we’re at the club and I’m moderating I’m used to Celia Bringing up these little cards with questions if you’ve heard a little ping

Over and over and over it’s because my Kershner from the club is sending me your Questions and so many of them are so wonderful. I know think we’re going to get to all of them, but I would like to To post a couple and I think would be instructive here. Um

This one is for bishops wing and I guess it’s asking for some clarity from your opening remarks If those at the top of religious hierarchy are constrained say my dogma and doctrine How is it possible that? Followers should lead without such constraint. Is it a shared leadership?

If we take away the shared leadership, but yeah, I don’t follow Let’s say the people at the top I Remember being in Jerusalem with the Dalai Lama and he and I went by to see a

Patriarch and the patriarch was seated high on a throne and the Dalai Lama and I were seated on the floor And we were I was telling him about the United religions initiative and

Ceteris and I said, why don’t you join her to join us and let’s do something about interfaith, and he said he said I I Can’t I’d love to do that, but I can’t do it. He said I’m a prisoner in on my own throne I can’t I can’t leave here

I’m up here, which said the world to me he was wonderful man and very spiritual and he got it in terms of a bigger vision that the economy of God involving many more than one one faith perspective but When you’re dealing with religious leaders usually

There’s a pyramid and they’re at the top of the pyramid and they’re their number one Obligation is to defend the faith of the people underneath them and if they act like That they’re just one of many faiths It kind of means Maybe one faith has is kind of as good as another

And that destroys the pyramid and so they don’t have a lot of chance to Get away from the pyramid, but the people at the bottom of the pyramid they just live in towns and villages If they want to build it well together with other people I could just do it

So there’s a great deal of Flexibility at the bottom. There’s very little flexibility at the top And you see that in the cooperation circles Yeah Very interestingly we decide okay. We’re just going to start a grassroots movement, etc

But as well as we work around the world, we find that more and more religious leaders joint cooperation circles so that we have rabbis and Imams and and bishops and Etc, etc. In the cooperation circles. It’s very interesting you start at the bottom and all kinds of

People in the hierarchies begin to work with you. So that’s great. I guess it’s our human nature to be together Yeah, exactly This question is for Masha beam you speak about approaching the other as a human being first What can be done by Muslims in the United States?

To help the public understand Islam as you express it Yeah, thank you for that question, Michael and it’s a very genuine and beautiful concern That that that has been shared through this question. But again, I’d like to go back to the

To the initial remarks that I made. I think it’s key. It’s really key to understand that when we are Inviting the Muslim folk in in our country to be able to engage with others on a human level That we’re also ready to engage with them at that level

So I sometimes find it very burdensome if there is just one Muslim individual who is called upon to explain everything. That is Islam And and I find that that is just so unfair because each one of us is so different and we’re a different location And we’re at different places in our own

Spirituality and humanity. So um I would just I would suggest but we are also open to learning at our own pace from our own points of view and perspective and and I think you know this country and every other country and every other community of human beings is going to find

Muslims just as welcoming as any other religious tradition to sit down and Talk to another person as a friend or as as as a community member I think it becomes a little problematic and and that’s why I said it’s important to recognize that sometimes Minority traditions feel they have this double burden

I remember once at the Asian Art Museum when I was speaking to a group of K to 12 features and and many of those teachers would just not talk about Islam as as world religions because they thought it was very intimidating to talk about Islam and instead of that

What was happening was that was a 14 year old? Muslim kid in high school was tapped on on the shoulder to explain why there was a certain event happening in the world pertaining to Muslims

So I I think what I meant that when we engage with another at a human level is that we realize that that one person can really Might not even want to it’s not whether their equipment equipped or not might just not want to engage

At that level with someone else. So instead of saying can you explain why this happened to me? You could come up and give a human comment and say I hope you’re OK in the middle of all of this What can I do to help you get through this?

So I think that is what I meant about a human engagement rather than just you know Take someone little is visibly Muslim and and you know just start up a conversation which they might not want to engage with

You know when you first mention this it really it hit home because a lot of our work is service oriented and I remember a long long time ago. Somebody said to me somebody Yeah people might not pick up a book on the Greek Orthodox faith and all they’re going to know about your

Your faith is what they see in you and And so you are a living and walking book if you will to some extent on on what your faith teaches, um, Sam just a question here it as much as Jews have been a minority population

Wherever they lived almost all their entire history until just the past seventy years or so for Jews living in the State of Israel How do you think this has shaped Jewish perspectives on interfaith relations? mmm Yeah

Profoundly, I and this this again connects to some of the wise words that might redeem was just saying that I think something and also this this image Michael Lee you concluded with of Of each of us being a sort of book that gets studied as Kind of representative

In some cases of an entire tradition in ways that that can be a beautiful opportunity but also ways to use measure Dean’s Term ways that that can be burdensome and I think that with the ways in which that is burdensome Or more are often more clear to people who are having minority experiences

Something that in any kind of conversation We at the most micro or the most macro level that we have to be sensitive to is power power dynamics Much of being spoke earlier about about what it is to have a dialogue and I think that we can We can contrast dialogue with

Disputation right a lot of the so-called Inter-religious dialogue of the past when we look back to the sort of great you know inter-religious dialogue happening in the medieval world say These were almost exclusively scenarios where there was a particular authority via a king an emperor

Arranging for these kinds of fellows either directly or indirectly but there being a conversation between a religion of religious group that is hegemonic that is dominance that is in power that is stable and secure and not having

Tremendous reason to fear for its existence or it’s for others perceptions of them and other religious groups that have minority experiences in that place and Jews as the question indicated Have Judaism arose in exile Judea Judaism as we know it rabbinic judaism arose after the destruction of the temple in the year 70

And in almost in the Formative centuries millennia of this tradition was was diaspora experienced. So I think that there’s ways that Jews the inter-religious Conversations have not always been safe For Jews, if that conversation doesn’t go. Well if Judaism doesn’t end up looking rational or or or

Theologically or philosophically sound at the end of that conversation. There are real material risks there I think something also that from the Jewish perspective and it really any minority religious perspective on interface Relations and conversations to be aware of is ways that this is always happening in a particular language and that language

Is is Is inevitably shaped more by The majority hegemonic religions than by the minority traditions that are participating in that conversation And even in the most well-meaning cases for example the term interfaith That strikes me is a quite Christian term right as a Jew and you know

Faith as doctrine or belief actually isn’t isn’t such a Foundational part of what it is to be Jewish. So to define a religion as something that is a faith already Kind of indicates a particular setting in which this conversation is taking place

I for the record feel very comfortable in this conversation, and I’m Grateful to be here and to be a part of this and I find this to be fruitful But it’s just a small subtle example of something that can actually be far more insidious

You know there in other kinds of contexts. So I think that those are some ways that that The Jewish tradition has has emerged and involved around some of those particular Conditions and situations with regard to interfaith inter-religious dialogue

Thank you. You’ve given us a lot of food for thought and I’m gonna be very careful how I use language moving forward We’re coming to the end of the hour but I feel compelled because we’ve received more than one question on this particular issue and as the father of

Twins who are supposed to be graduating from high school Next week this week. Excuse me The question is how can we involve? young people of different faiths in this context of the covert 19 pandemic in growing in

Better relations of people of different religions and faiths and I will put that out to all three of you. It’s the last question Well, I think that the The human problem drawls the young people If you have if you have climate change

The young people don’t come at it. Like this is a Jewish problem or a Muslim problem or a Christian problem It’s just a human problem and the young people see it and they go to it And therefore they find their community In their action I

Was just thinking earlier when I was listening that Korona must be an inter-religious virus If it goes to all the religions and it creates a A human response that has to be global in order to do something about it Thank you, thank you

Maha beam yeah. I’m wondering if I could I mean, thank you and congratulations Michael for your I Think coming to that age group and the young people of today there is so much that we inherit from our parents and sometimes we also inherit their

Limitations and I don’t mean physical limitations or DNA and stuff like that. I also mean how we think Inadvertently, sometimes we pass on those limited ways in which we’ve shaped our intellectual ‘ti to our children when we

Sort of discipline them or tell them what they’re supposed to ask and not ask and and this I think when crisis hits Humanity, this is God’s Way of embolden Ain new thoughts So I think especially with that age group when they’re ready to question and they’re ready to question their own

Traditions and say why is it that in my tradition? I am or am I I am NOT able to Associate with another member of a certain religious tradition at this level I think that’s a very bold question

And and and I think our young people can readily see this they are not afraid of asking questions They are not afraid of breaking laws that we thought that we just couldn’t and we were bound by them

And and I think this is the beauty with which I think the next generation can take this work of interconnectedness Farther down we all feel the same pain we all bleed the same blood we all bruise in the same manner and I think this our young people relate to

For easy in any easier manner than I think people who are set in a tradition like perhaps, you know We are or maybe I can just speak for myself But I I would like to welcome this when my daughters questioned me about something that you know corners me. I Feel good about it

I really feel good about it because that’s a thought that never came to me and they’re asking me this question And I think a pandemic like this has brought the young people together and they’re looking for answers perhaps at places that we were too scared to look for and

Just to shout out to them to keep on Doing that good work and connecting us in ways that we thought there were no bridges to connect This will define their generation as say 9/11 to find ours Sam you’re gonna get the last word and now

Well, I must start with gratitude and I’m just really really enjoying listening to each of you and conversing with you Yeah This is a great concluding question you know something that a lot of religious traditions you give out particularly the mystical dimensions of those traditions is that moment when you realize that the

World as we know it right the the ways of the world that we were taught that everything that are the sort of laws of existence that Actually that is only the outer layer. That’s the sort of crust of a much deeper Mysterious unknown Dynamic Truth and an inner reality. Um, I

Think that we’re seeing in this in this upcoming generation of young people An attunement to that in a very real social political sense There seems to they’re straight. I have a lot of faith in this in this new generation and There seems to be a really remarkably pervasive sense that

The world as we know it doesn’t have to be this way that there actually can be we can gain insight into Dynamics of power and authority and all of the institutions that structure our existence and all of the different parties and

Canons and documents that tell us how things are and how they ought to be that actually um, These are that it’s possible to see through the veil To use to use the language of many of our traditions. Um

And they’re pairing that a lot of young people are I think more so than when I was growing up our pairing that with a real thirst for information and and that combination of both trying to see beyond the veil and narratives With a genuine thirst for information for details very counter histories

That is gonna be very potent for the world at large. But also that just opens up tremendous fertility and possibilities of renewal and the resources of our traditions As we’ve seen in the history of religion some of the the moments of flowering of transformation of new revelation

In within traditions happens when people see something completely different in those in those foundational sources and not to glorify the young people too much But I see a lot of promise. I see I see I see a very exciting churning of Commentators interpreters and practitioners of the future

And my hope is that we can have some intergenerational dialogue And learn from them we have exceeded the time in my apologies to the many other questions that we couldn’t address we could be here all day, which time does not permit, but the spirit does wish I

Want to say a very special thank you to our distinguished panelists Magi Bean dalla Bishop Williams swing and dr. Sam Baron Sean cough I’m Michael Pappas executive director of the San Francisco interfaith council today’s moderator for the program called the importance of interfaith understanding Now this meeting of the Commonwealth Club of California

Celebrating over a hundred and fifteen years of enlightened discussion is adjourned You You

#Importance #Interfaith #Understanding

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