Over 40 religious and community leaders from Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths, came together on the evening of February 7th in Seattle University's Casey Commons to commemorate Interfaith Harmony Week. Interfaith Harmony Week was unanimously adopted by the UN in 2010 to be observed during the first week of February. It provides a platform—one week in a year—when all people of goodwill can recognize that the common values they hold far outweigh the differences they have, and thus provide a strong dosage of peace and harmony to their communities. Events are planned around the world, including here in Seattle.To mark Interfaith Harmony Week, Seattle University's School of Theology and Ministry hosted a special dinner for members of the School's Interreligious Council, other interreligious representatives, School faculty and community leaders. At the dinner, a panel comprising of a rabbi, an imam/sheik and a minister discussed “What are the barriers to the harmony we seek?” The speakers were: Rabbi Bruce Kadden from Temple Beth El in Tacoma, Rev. Linda Smith from the Church of Mary Magdalene in Seattle, and Mohamed Sheik Hassan from the Somali community in Seattle. Rabbi Kadden identified internal disagreements among different parts of the Jewish community towards interfaith dialogue and the ongoing Israeli-Arab conflict as the two main barriers from his perspective. For her part, Rev. Smith focused on racism and poverty as the potentially divisive issues. Echoing some of Rev. Smith's concerns, Sheik Hassan spoke compellingly about poverty and being refugees or new immigrants being huge barriers to interfaith dialogue. One can't worry about interfaith relations when one is concerned about finding a suitable place to live, or getting a job, or putting food on the table.Following their presentations, there was ample time for lively discussion both with the panelists and at the individual tables. This year was the first that Seattle University's School of Theology and Ministry has marked Interfaith Harmony Week. Plans are already underway to to celebrate next year's event in a way that brings deeper meaning to our efforts to dialogue and collaborate in an increasingly religiously diverse fashion.
Interested in programming like this? To learn more about the Interreligious Initiative's "Faith & Values in the Public Square" lecture series, visit here.
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