Building Communities

Communities meeting in friendship does not mean meeting in unanimity. They come together in a desire for understanding, whether it concerns their different views of religious tradition, political priorities, mixed-faith marriages or any one of dozens of issues brought together by populations that crowd each other.

Peter Zaas is a professor of religious studies at Siena College, specializing in the New Testament, and the director of the Kieval Institute, who wrote, "As couples who merge their lives in marriage express a great deal of hopeful faith, that their lives will be better together than they could ever be separately, so it is with people of religious faith who meet in friendship. On Sukkot, Jews read the Scroll of Koheleth. It says, 'When two lie together they will be warm, a threefold cord will not be quickly torn' -- wisdom about marriage and for interfaith friendship."

As any region's demography changes, so does the breadth of interfaith relationships and friendship. The conversation at diverse study centers, houses of religion, and retreat facilities, has spawned friendships that celebrate diversity with programs that enrich our traditions of curiosity and cooperation. People who gather for study find that they celebrate and commiserate about each other's frustrations. They provide a microcosm of what society could be. It is that opportunity and dialogue that forms the third principle of who we are at the Interfaith Renewal Center.

A group of panelists for a recent seminar held at the Hubbard Interfaith Sanctuary in Albany was entitled, "Marriage in Interfaith Perspective" and the notable speakers were Imam Mokhtar Maghraoui, Rabbi Beverly Magidson, the Rev. Christopher DeGiovine and Professor Jai Misir, representing, respectively their Muslim, Jewish, Christian, and Buddhist and Hindu traditions. Even a decade ago, such a gathering would have been nearly impossible in most countries. Now such studies can be found in most major metropolitan areas, and the positive aspects of respect and acceptance generated from a better understanding of differing beliefs are evident in stronger bonds of cooperative spirit in communities everywhere.

It is a mission of Interfaith Renewal Center to assist individuals and organizations who are actively seeking interfaith community development, with a priority of preserving culture and tradition.