Major faiths to join for conference

Wednesday, February 28, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 11:04 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

Conversations about religion usually gravitate toward the differences that separate instead of the similarities that unite.

On March 11 the Columbia Faith and Education Collaborative will bring together members of the Christian, Jewish and Islamic faiths to talk about what they have in common. Other religions are also welcome.

“Seeking Common Ground Among Religious Faith” is the collaborative’s fourth community conference, which strives to bring people of different faiths together to improve Columbia.

“There is a broad range of common human concerns and needs that all major religions address,” said Uel Blank, co-chair of the collaborative’s steering committee.

“In the current atmosphere of divisiveness that seems to pervade many facets of our society, opportunities to understand and work with one another are vital to our survival as a society,” said Kerry Hollander, executive director of Columbia’s Hillel Foundation.

Hollander will be one of five local religious leaders who will open the conference with a panel discussion on the similarities shared by the world’s major religions.

“I don’t think that there is one religion that does not have a component of compassion,” said Otto Steinhaus, co-chair of the collaborative’s steering committee.

The conference will attempt to draw on this compassion, as attendees will be assigned to small groups to reflect on the panel discussion and to plan an interfaith community service project. Participants will execute the projects in five months, Steinhaus said.

The Friends of Peace Studies, a citizen group that supports the MU peace studies department, established the conference about five years ago. Past conferences centered on understanding hate and the importance of listening.The March 11 conference, like previous conferences, is meant not only to educate people about a culture of peace but also to put one into practice.

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