Faith leaders hope discussion leads to better understanding

You are standing in an elevator on the first floor, and another passenger joins you. You have until the 10th floor – two minutes – to explain the foundation of your religion.


What would you say?

That task was given to the seven panelists at Thursday’s Interfaith Fellowship, which was held at Unitarian Universalist Church of Augusta. These leaders from different religions came to discuss their faith and answer questions from the community.

“Since religion is integral to cultures, if we’re to understand our neighbors in this global village, it is important for us to have some understanding of the basics of their religion,” panel moderator Andy Reese said. “It doesn’t mean giving up our own faith. It means allowing their understanding of truth to help us gain new insights into our own faith, and thereby to enrich our experience of our faith.”

Members of the panel were Imam Dr. Mohamad Jamal Daoudi of the Islamic Society of Augusta; Rabbi Robert Klensin of the Congregation of the Children of Israel; the Rev. Jason Haddox of St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church; B.N. Roy of the Hindu Temple Society of Augusta; Surinderjit Singh of the Guru Singh Sabha, representing the Sikh faith; John Black of Universalist Unitarian, representing Buddhism; and the Rev. Gaye Ortiz, also of Universalist Unitarian, representing the Unitarian faith.

Each panelist explained the origins of his or her faith, its founder if there was one, and its core beliefs and values.

Panelists answered questions that dealt with issues such as the physical image of God and why tolerance isn’t preached more within religious services.

According to its mission statement, the Interfaith Fellowship’s purpose is to promote dialogue, understanding and respect; foster relationships between people of different faiths; and celebrate common values and diversity.

Michael McCullen, a member of the Progressive Religious Co­alition, said he would have liked a greater turnout and hopes that future discussions will draw more people.

He said Augusta is a microcosm of the world’s culture. Religion has historically been the center of many conflicts and wars, but different groups of people should be able to disagree without resorting to violence.

“People of different faiths should be able to come together and talk to one another,” McCullen said.

Visit for information about the fellowship and upcoming events.



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