Last week I received an email inviting me to participate in an Interfaith Dialogue. The invitation came just a few days before the event. I had to make some arrangements with my husband to share our vehicle so we could both get to where we needed to be that afternoon, and I am grateful he was willing to work with me so I could attend.
I had no idea what to expect. I’ve been trying to find and connect with any local interfaith organizations, and there isn’t a lot going on here. There are also a lot of misconceptions about Wicca out there. Hollywood hasn’t always painted my faith in a positive light.
All I knew was the date and time, and that there would be some small group discussions. Still, I was very excited!
When I arrived on Tuesday, I was greeted by a very welcoming group. The event was organized by a summer intern at the Comox Valley Presbyterian Church. Besides myself and the Presbyterians, there were representatives from Baha’i, Unitarian, and Humanist groups. Each guest took a few moments to introduce ourselves, and then we split up into three groups to share more deeply.
What struck me most as each person introduced themselves and their beliefs was how similar we all are. As each representative introduced themselves, I found myself nodding in agreement with many of their basic beliefs. Other than Humanism, which is more of an ethical code than a faith, we all believe in a higher power. All of us want what is best for society and the human race as a whole, and not only what is best for individuals. Though we may have used slightly different words, we agreed that religion is a way to access or express our individual spirituality.
The group that came to the session was primarily from the Presbyterian church. They were welcoming, open and very respectful of the other faiths. They asked wonderful questions, and participated in the discussion fully. I think I learned as much from the discussion as they did.
The essence of all religions is one. Only their approaches are different.
I’d love to see more people take the time to learn about other beliefs, to find the similarities, and not just the differences. I find the more I learn about other beliefs, the more clear I am about my own. Sometimes someone else says something in a way that is much simpler or clearer than I could have said it. Sometimes I find my beliefs to be very different. I know that I don’t know everything, and I have much to learn from the people I encounter.
How do you react when someone’s beliefs challenge your own? And do you practice looking for the differences, or do you look for what makes you the same?