Interfaith leaders from Spokane speak at EWU/Douglas Taylor - SpokaneFAVS

Faith leaders gather at EWU to discuss importance of creating dialogue between religions, cultures

By Douglas Taylor

On Monday, Eastern Washington University hosted an “Interfaith Peace Panel,” a conference featuring a variety of speakers, representing six different faith traditions.

The conference was put on by the EWU Buddhist Club as a part of the school-wide diversity week. The “Peace Panel” sought to create a platform and a dialogue between local religious leaders. The speakers included Tibetan Buddhist Geshe-La Thupten Phelgye, the Rev. Happy Watkins of New Hope Baptist Church, EWU Lutheran Campus Ministries Pastor Shelley Wee,  Buddhist Lama Lashey Zangpo, Muslim Imam Yasser Shahin, and Barry Moses of the Spokane Indian Tribe.

All of the speakers expressed the importance of initiating progressive dialogue between different religions and cultures. Iain Finnigan, president of the EWU Buddhist club, said that awareness is the first step.

“What we try to do, and what this conference accomplished, is to bring awareness to other religions,” he said. “Conflicts often are the result of religious intolerance, or at least religion is a huge component in them. Dialogue promotes religious harmony, which can create peace.”

The speakers came from vastly different backgrounds, but are all grounded in their faith’s mission to cultivate peace and understanding. Shahin, a Palestinian refugee, spoke about the Quran’s merciful and loving depiction of Allah. Bronx native, Watkins, likened interfaith dialogue to the unifying dream of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Wee discussed the importance of cultivating love for everyone, despite differences.

“Hearing other’s stories is very important,” Wee said. “If you don’t hear other people’s stories, it’s easy to get stuck in a box, but when you bring everyone together, it expands what we knew before.”

Finnigan says that tolerance towards other’s faiths also means being accepting of their cultures.

“Faith is a part of culture,” he said. “Intolerance to the culture of others is intolerance to their faith.”

All the speakers focused on the qualities that unite them, rather than their differing views. Finnigan says this is one of the most important lessons to learn.

“There are fundamental values with every religion, and we have more common ground than differences. That’s what I hope people take away from this.”

About Douglas Taylor

Doug Taylor is a junior at Gonzaga University, majoring in broadcast and electronic media, and pursuing a minor in English. He is originally from Portland, Oregon. In his free time, he enjoys playing guitar, skiing at Schweitzer, hiking and fishing. He loves sports, and is a captain of the Men’s Ultimate Frisbee team on campus. He recently got back from studying abroad in Florence, Italy, and is slowly adjusting to life without amazing food.

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