Interfaith event unites religions for conversation

    Representatives of three different faith traditions gathered at Sheil Catholic Center Tuesday night for an interfaith dialogue. Father Kevin Keeney, pastor of Sheil, Rabbi Aaron Potek, Northwestern's campus rabbi, and Tahera Ahmad, a Muslim associate chaplain and the director of Interfaith Engagement, answered questions concerning their specific faith traditions, as well as themes of religion in general.

    "A lot of faiths have different paths to the same goal," Potek said. "We're ultimately trying to make the world a better place and make people better people."

    More than 30 students and members of the Evanston community listened to the three panelists discuss such topics as sexuality, the afterlife and the place of religion in government as well as common misperceptions of their faith.

    "If you are a Muslim or you look a certain way there are a lot of stereotypes around what that actually means and why you do what you do," Ahmad said.

    Ahmad noted that many Americans see Islam as a religion that promotes violence and oppresses women. However, the practices that seem to condone such behavior often stem from sources outside of Islam, like the indigenous tribes in the Arab region. Ahmad told the audience to investigate stereotypes before accepting them.

    "I would recommend doing research on the significant number of women in the Muslim world that are better educated than the men are," Ahmad said.

    Although they openly addressed misunderstandings and answered questions from the audience, the members of the panel were quick to acknowledge that they could not speak for their entire faith tradition.

    "I'm just one Jew," said Potek. "There are many viewpoints in Judaism."

    School of Communication junior Lauren Kandell said she appreciated learning more about the similar views among the Catholic, Jewish and Muslim faith traditions, but she would like the panel to really dig into a single topic.

    "I think that because this was such a broad event, there was a lot that could come from this event," Kandell said. "Having more panels in the future with more specific focuses could be helpful in delving more deeply into different topics."

    Stacy Sanchez, a SESP senior, said that one of the best parts of the panel was hearing the speakers struggle with difficult questions about their faith.

    "The message that I got from the three speakers was that is was okay not to agree with everything," Sanchez said. "Just because you don't believe your religion's perspective on something doesn't mean you should separate yourself from it."

    Keeney encouraged the audience to embrace their faith, stating that commitment to religion continues to affect communities everywhere.

    "No matter what group you are talking about, if people really allow themselves to be shaped and formed by that tradition they become good people and make a difference in the world," he said.


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