A mingling of expectant conversation and instrumental hymns met audience members as they filed into Jonasson Hall for the interfaith gathering Voices of Hope on Feb. 27.
After a warm welcome and invocation by Linfield Chaplain David Massey, the gathering proceeded with messages of friendship, songs and peace prayers from people of different faiths.
Massey said that true interfaith dialogue, without the combative attitude so prevalent in today’s religious debates, is the only way to understand others.
“When we truly get to know the other; it’s then that we start to see ourselves reflected in them,” he said. “True dialogue brings out our common humanity.”
Special guest Jan Michael Looking Wolf spoke about a similar belief: the One Heart tradition of Native American tribes. Human beings, he said, were not made so that their minds agree all the time; the One Heart tradition promotes the awareness that hearts and spirits can agree despite this.
The gathering’s theme, hope, was chosen because all people have it in common.
“All major religions have hope,” Massey said. “It’s a quality we each long for and strive for, and it reflects what the world needs today.”
Many of the speeches placed a heavy emphasis on the importance of learning about and understanding others.
Muslim speaker Gulzar Ahmed maintained that it is only through cooperation with one another that humans can ever hope to live in peace.
“Blessed be the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God,” he reminded listeners.
Area Director Delane Hein spoke about the need to know one’s neighbor. She had everyone in the audience stand and greet the people around them.
“By getting to know one another, it promotes understanding, respect and trust,” she said. “Understanding is not abstract as it comes about through knowledge and connecting with the hearts of others.”
Senior Dayna Tapp led a ceremony in which the audience was invited to come forward and light candles representing hope.
“Hope is fostered by interfaith celebration,” Tapp said. “At a conflicting time in history when religion divides many nations and relationships, I believe that the process of learning and celebrating various faith traditions is an excellent example of hope.”
Although Linfield offers a variety of religious programs, such as spiritual discovery trips and discussion panels, Voices of Hope is the first interfaith meeting of its kind at Linfield. Faiths represented included Christianity, Islam, Zen Buddhism, Quakers, Native American traditions and Bahá’í.
“I hope our community will continue its work in creating an environment that feels safe to share, question and celebrate our spiritual experiences,” Hein said.
Sharon Gollery/For the Review
Sharon Gollery can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org