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Volume 68, Issue 52, Wednesday, November 6, 2002


Speakers aim for peace, unity

By Geronimo Rodriguez
The Daily Cougar

Instead of examining why countries are on the brink of war with one another, a discussion panel composed of four guest speakers on Tuesday addressed the necessity of interfaith dialogue and its potential to bridge conflicting religious ideals.

"We are not trying to promote our religion, but we are trying to bring members of other religions together so that we can establish a peaceful world," said Berkan Kaya, a chemical engineering graduate student and vice president of the UH Young Spirits and Institute of Interfaith Dialogue for World Peace.

About 40 people attended the campus organization's presentation, which focused mainly on bringing together members of Abrahamic religions Christianity, Islam and Judaism and was held at the University Center's Mediterranean Room.

Panelists at a lecture on the importance in interfaith dialogue address the potential religion has for sparking peace instead of war.

Lorrie Novosad/The Daily Cougar

Through religious stories and shared experiences, speakers conveyed their ideas about the importance of bringing people together, regardless of religious beliefs, to discuss the world's problems.

The guests also shared many ideas and steps they said groups can take to improve the practice of interfaith dialogue. One speaker even emphasized his belief that people should reflect on themselves, rather than just compare religions.

"It's not about a dialogue between religions; it's about the dialogue between members of the religions," said Muhammed Cetin, a Ph.D. candidate in sociology and religion at the United Kingdom's Bery University.

The lecturers also touched on the events of 9/11 and how the tragedy gave societies a chance to look past personal religious differences and open communication lines with others.

"I think 9/11 gave us an opportunity to take a step back and put aside a lot of animosity and aggression to some extent," said Kenny Weiss, a rabbi and the executive director of Houston Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life of UH. "I think what we saw across the United States, for the most part, was a much lower level of incidents of anti-Semitism, aggression and animosity between different student groups. But as the school year went on, that kind of precipitated a bit.

"So I don't know if 9/11 tells us to talk about those things," he continued. "I think it gave us an opportunity and I think we can still take that opportunity to some extent."

Bill Clark, a reverend from Thoreau Unitarian Church, and Covel MacDonald, a reverend from Central Presbyterian Church, also spoke and took questions from the forum.

Kaya, a Muslim of Turkish descent, said the organization plans to hold more of these discussions to keep communicating with other religious groups and, ultimately, help spread the idea of peace.

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