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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Three Religions, One Understanding

Looking at one’s religious perspective from “one Abrahamic faith” was the goal of last Wednesday’s inaugural forum, “A Trialogue of the Abrahamic Faith,” sponsored by the UMB Muslim Student Association on April 28.

Mustafa Azeem, a sociology/criminal justice major, envisioned the event. Azeem said he wanted to initiate this inter/intra-faith dialogue on campus before graduating. His larger goal is for the three faiths to reach a common understanding and acceptance-a bond that would outweigh the historical conflicts and differences of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

The forum brought spiritual leaders of the three faiths from the Greater Boston community to UMB to discuss the shared components of the religions. Attending were Imam Abdullah Faaruq of the Islamic Council of New England and the Roxbury Mosque, Patti May Cangiano of the Boston Christian Science Center, Reverend Adrienne Berry-Burton of UMB Interfaith Chapel, Rabbi Frank Waldorf of Brookline, and Sister Salma Kazmi of the Islamic Society of Boston in Cambridge. All the guest speakers have participated in similar panels at other universities and religious centers around the country.

The opening discussion focused on the following questions: “What are the similarities of your faith to the other Abrahamic faiths, and what are some of the differences? What is our purpose of existence on this fragile planet? Who is God and what is the purpose of God’s existence?”

The answers to these questions highlighted differences and similarities that surprised many listeners. Rabbi Waldorf stated, “The heart of the matter for the Jew is that existence hangs together in some kind of coherent way. The watchword of the Jewish faith is ‘Pay attention, oh Israel, God is One.’ What is so fascinating about such a statement is that our experience is one of diversity and contradiction, and the world in which we find ourselves in does not feel all that coherent. Yet the shema (the Jewish call to prayer, recited three times each day) is a statement that somehow behind all the differences, there lies a cosmic unity, and if we embrace it, it is life-giving and provides us with energy to live our life despite these contradictions.”

Imam Faaruq continued where Rabbi Waldorf had left off. “The rabbi started off with the most significant description of God, and if we continue to speak based on what the scripture said about God, based on what God said about himself, we are going to find the same message.” He noted the danger of defining God outside of scripture and outside of the confines that God describes himself.

Students and community leaders questioned and discussed the purpose of the soul, as well as an individual’s responsibility to God, to one another, and to our natural environments. Students questioned how each religion views the afterlife, predestination, and forgiveness.

After the forum ended the dialogue continued outside the auditorium for over a half an hour. Patty Cangiano and Imam Faaruq stayed late to continue talking to students. Both said they would be willing to come back next semester and students are already talking about the next forum and the themes to be discussed.