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Moving towards interfaith harmony

World Interfaith Harmony Week (Feb. 1-7) was established in 2010 by the General Assembly of the United Nations in order to nurture a culture in which people of all faiths can live harmoniously. Within the shared context of love of the good and love of the neighbor, WIHW encourages leaders in all churches, mosques, synagogues, temples, and other places of worship to promote inter-religious dialogue and cooperation.

In recognition of WIHW, Mayor Joshua Schlicher has issued a proclamation asking all citizens of Marietta to appreciate the contributions of our diverse faith groups and to work consciously toward harmony.

Listed here are a few of the many opportunities residents in the Mid-Ohio Valley have to deepen their knowledge and appreciation of diverse faiths.

Some houses of worship will be offering special interfaith programs and services. For example, on Sunday, Feb. 7, the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Marietta will be examining the concept of “community” and exploring what wisdom various world religions offer us as we move to heal the divide within our own country. How can we have both strong specific faith communities and strong multi-faith communities? (On Zoom at 11 a.m., also available on Facebook.)

To foster meaningful interfaith dialogue and relationships, Patricia Vargas, chaplain at Harmar Place, has outlined a program for 2021. She explains, “During the year we are going to post and display symbols that represent specific faiths/beliefs and to engage residents and staff in games and crafts that will encourage them to learn, listen, find common ground and respect differences.” In addition, Harmar Place will cooperate with Ohio’s Hospice to host two interfaith conversation panels and Zoom chats on the topics of death and dying and the role of faith in their lives and communities. Via Zoom, residents will also be invited to participate in small group workshops on justice issues.

In a monthly devotional meeting open to all on Zoom, Carol Sedgwick offers a half-hour of interfaith contemplation and sharing.

The meetings include readings and music from a variety of faith traditions. Sedgwick explains: “Each devotional is thematic. The theme of January was the oneness of the human race and included a tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and an excerpt from his “I have a dream” speech. The focus for February will be love – God’s love for us, our love for God, and the love we have–or should have–for each other.” The meetings are held on the first Tuesday of each month at 7:00 p.m.. The Zoom link is us02web.zoom.us/j/88546976574.

Marietta College Professor David Torbett begins his introductory course to the five major world religions by asking, “Why are we learning about these religions? Why is the study of religion part of a college education?” Here’s his answer to these questions:

“We come to college to study the human experience, and religion is part of that human experience. Not everybody is religious, but most people in the world belong to some organized religion. If we really want to understand people, we should understand this aspect of their lives and understand it truthfully, based upon reliable sources. Thus, we should be wary of false notions spread by unreliable sources.”

He continues, “I do not expect my students to conclude that all religions are the same, because clearly they are not. I do not expect them to conclude that all religions are equal in their claims to ultimate truth because part of exploring religious diversity is acknowledging differences and disagreements on those matters.”

“What I do hope to do,” concludes Dr. Torbett, “is give students the tools for understanding religions accurately. Having accurate knowledge does not guarantee that people will respect each other, much less that they will live and thrive together amidst their differences. But accurate knowledge won’t hurt. It’s certainly better than ignorance. Truthful understanding is something we all want for ourselves, so it is something we all owe to others.”

Mid-Ohio Valley Interfaith seeks to cultivate a welcoming and inclusive community whose members are knowledgeable and appreciative of diverse faith traditions and their cultural contexts.Please visit us on Facebook at Mid Ohio Valley Interfaith or @midohiointerfaith.

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