Interfaith panel promotes understanding

'We Are More Alike Than We Are Different' event

Interfaith panel promotes understanding

WINONA, Minn. - In a time when religious differences can seem so pronounced, a group is bringing together people from several different faiths to promote understanding.

A panel with the theme "We are More Alike Than We Are Different" brought representatives from Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish and Christian faiths together Wednesday night at Winona State University.

"This is about humans and how humans can get together and live in harmony,” said Mohamed Elhindi, CIO for the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.

So the name Solomon’s Song, the nonprofit organization hosting this interfaith panel, is fitting in finding that harmony.

Elhindi's son Solomon passed away last year.

"At 14 years old, he united more people than I could in 50 years in life,” Elhindi said. “His spirit is looking at, let's keep uniting people."

At the panel, voices from six religious backgrounds joined together to create harmony in Solomon's name.

"One way to create harmony is a conversation like this,” Baskar Iyengar, a speaker representing the Hindu faith, said.

The more voices in the harmony, the better the song.

"A lot of the conversation that you end up hearing both locally and nationally ends up focused on how divided we end up being,” Paul Kisho Stern, representing Buddhism, said. “I think it's important to end up sharing and celebrating really that foundation we all end up sharing."

Despite having different faiths, the speakers shared the same key notes on what religion means to them.

"I heard many people say 'way of life, and way of living' and I had written that on a piece of paper this afternoon, so I think we have that in common,” Corrine Haulotte, speaking on behalf of the Lutheran faith, said.

One speaker, John Emery, converted from Christianity to Islam ten years ago.

"Part of my goal is to explain to people the vast majority of values and beliefs are actually shared between the different faith traditions,” he said.

Speakers agreed that by communicating openly about their similarities and differences, they can resolve any divide.

"Just like we teach our children when they grow up, you can have a different opinion, you can like peanut butter and hate peanut butter, but you can still eat sandwiches together,” said Barbara Nagel, a representative for the Jewish faith.

"The more we can share knowledge about our faiths, the better off all of us are,” Justin Green, a speaker on behalf of Catholicism, said.

Elhindi hopes even after this panel, people will keep listening.

"We're human, and what brings people together is more valuable than what divides us,” he said.

About 100 people attended the discussion, and it was also streamed live over the internet.

After the panel spoke and answered questions, the audience was welcomed to continue the conversation over refreshments.

The event was also sponsored by the Muslim Student Association and the Lutheran Campus Center.

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