Interfaith Group Forms in Coeur d’Alene
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News Story by Cindy Hval | FāVS News
A new interfaith group in Coeur d’Alene aims to focus on beliefs and values that unite citizens.
Bart Johnston, Interfaith CDA director, said he and Dr. John Pulsipher, both members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, launched the group because church leadership wanted to engage with different religious groups in the Coeur d’Alene area.
“Every day there’s a different reason to be divided,” Johnston said. “Let’s do something about this. We’d like to do some service projects together and see how we can strengthen the community through serving each other in the areas that we have in common.”
Engaging With Others
Doing that requires often getting out of your comfort zone, he explained.
“You can stay within your close circle,” Johnston said. “I’ve been doing that for years — but there’s a whole other world out there.”
Johnston believes engaging with others from diverse faith backgrounds begins with kindness and civility.
“If we can be kind to each other in the workplace or the community, surely we can do that with members of different religious faiths.”
The First Public Forum
In July, Interfaith CDA hosted the first of what they hope will be many ongoing public forums. Bob Rinehart, a member of the Bahá’í faith attended. He said the purpose of the group aligns with Bahá’í beliefs.
“Part of Bahá’í teaching is the oneness and unity of humanity,” he said. “The other part is the oneness of our faith. We believe that all faiths come from God, and establishing unity is essential. Reaching out and creating relationships and understanding other’s perspectives will move us in that direction.”
Though the Coeur d’Alene Bahá’í community is small in number, Rinehart said they’re looking forward to connecting with people from different faith communities.
“There’s a desperate need for this,” he said. “Society is struggling, crumbling in some ways. Sometimes we have to go through the worst times to get to the better.”
Venerable Thubten Semkye of Sravasti Abbey was one of the speakers at the July event. She is keenly aware of the divisions in the Coeur d’Alene community.
“Unfortunately, beautiful North Idaho is attracting people with very narrow views of the righteous ways to practice faith,” she said. “I attended because I wanted to connect with Christian faiths and to introduce the Buddhist faith to the community.”
Semkye felt encouraged by the response from attendees. During her portion of the program, she explained that one of the principles of the Buddhist faith is that every living being wants to be happy and not suffer and that autonomy, choice and agency are vital.
“How we choose that is a personal experience and not up to others,” she said.
She is hopeful that Interfaith CDA will be a gentle counterforce in the community.
“I left inspired and reassured that Coeur d’Alene and interfaith harmony are in very kind, wise and capable hands,” Semkye said.
All Are Welcome
That response is one Johnston hopes to see echoed in the months ahead. He stressed the inclusiveness of the group.
“We welcome conversation with anyone from atheists to different faith backgrounds — anyone with a desire to improve the community.”
He believes focusing on our commonality instead of our differences is the key.
“You can affect lives with kindness,” said Johnston. “If we look down the road a ways, I hope we can get community leadership talking about kindness and civility and how that will give our children and grandchildren a better place to live.”
Cindy Hval is the author of “War Bonds: Love Stories from the Greatest Generation,” and has been a columnist and correspondent for The Spokesman-Review newspaper since 2006. In addition, her stories have been published in numerous magazines and anthologies including 12 volumes of the “Chicken Soup For the Soul” series. Cindy is the mother of four sons, Nana of twin grandsons and is owned by two cats, also boys. She and her husband, Derek, recently celebrated their 37th anniversary. Her idea of heaven is a room full of books and all the time in the world to read them.