Insight: Remembering interfaith anniversaries, from 1800s until today
By: Douglas Kindschi, Director, Kaufman Interfaith Institute, GVSU
Last September, Eboo Patel wrote about the 20th anniversary of 9/11, but he also wrote about another anniversary of September 11, from over one hundred years ago in 1893. That was the year of the first Parliament of the World’s Religions, which took place in Chicago in conjunction with the Columbian Exposition. At the opening session on that day, Indian mystic and Hindu monk Swami Vivekananda gave a welcoming speech to an audience of 7,000 that set the tone for the Parliament and for a new understanding of religious tolerance and interfaith cooperation. Vivekananda concluded his speech, as noted by Patel, with a prayer for the end of “all fanaticism, of all persecutions with the sword or with the pen, and of all uncharitable feelings between people wending their way to the same goal.”
Last week on the 9/11 anniversary, the TV program “60 Minutes” aired a detailed report of the bravery but also the sacrifice of hundreds of members of New York City fire department. While the 9/11 tragedy was born in a kind of religious fanaticism, it also triggered a new awareness and need for religious understanding. Ten years ago, the Kaufman Interfaith Institute initiated its “2012 – Year of Interfaith Understanding.”
This September the interfaith efforts of our area are being recognized by the Aspen Institute. On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of Aspen’s Religion & Society Program, their report will be released titled, Building Interfaith Bridges: West Michigan’s Journey toward Principled Pluralism.
This study traces the beginnings of interfaith relations and the Kaufman Institute going back to the 1980s in Muskegon and in Grand Rapids. It also documents the development of Jewish-Christian-Muslim dialogues, the Academic Consortium conferences, and the various special years beginning with the Year of Interfaith Understanding, as well as the years which focused on Service, Friendship, and Healing.
We are excited that our local and regional efforts are being recognized by this respected national organization. I will also be on a panel with other interfaith leaders including Eboo Patel, president of Interfaith America. You can join us by Zoom from 3:30 to 5 p.m. this Thursday, Sept. 22, but you will need to register by clicking on the link below.
Eboo Patel concluded his comments on the various 9/11 events separated by a century by affirming the importance of recognizing religious diversity as a force for good.
“It is time for the United States to live into the vision of being a truly multifaith nation,” Patel added. “We are not a Judeo-Christian country; we are interfaith America, the most religiously diverse nation in human history. … Faith can be a bridge of cooperation, but bridges don’t fall from the sky, people build them. And when we build those bridges of cooperation between different faiths, we build a world that is worthy of the highest ideals of all of our faiths.”
We are pleased to be building such bridges in West Michigan and honored to be joining other such efforts as the Aspen Institute and Eboo Patel’s Interfaith America.
Also note this evening’s International Interfaith Concert and Dialogue. Hope to see you there!