Unification News for April 2004

How Can Interfaith Heal Our World Crisis?

UTS Interfaith Prayer Breakfast

On Tuesday, March 9, a group of Muslims, Hindus and Christians gathered for prayer, food, and fellowship at the Unification Theological Seminary (UTS) in Barrytown, New York. Notable participants included the President of a major Baptist New York State Convention, an imam from a local mosque; leaders of a local Hindu Temple; the Executive Director of the county interfaith council; a professor in Religious Studies in Poughkeepsie, Bishop Ki Yeal Lee of the Upstate New York Family Church, Dr. and Mrs. Dietrich Seidel, professor at UTS and Marist College, Dr. Tyler Hendricks, President of UTS, who served as emcee, and Dr. David S.C Kim, President Emeritus of UTS.

The theme of the gathering was "How Can Interfaith Heal Our World Crisis?" The program began shortly after eight with a prayer offered by the Reverend Berger. Dr. Hendricks introduced the ACLC and then called upon each participant to introduce her or himself. Then he introduced the speaker, Mr. Chris Antal, a candidate for the degree of Masters of Divinity and Director of the Just Peace Project at UTS.

Mr. Antal spoke on the topic "Growing Up in a New Religious America." He noted that Dutchess County, like many communities in America, is a multi-religious community, and that local residents have a unique opportunity to learn about the world religions simply by getting to know their neighbors.

Mr. Antal then showed a clip from the film "Americas New Religious Diversity," which was produced by the Public Television Service program "Religion and Ethics Newsweekly." It contained an interview with Diana Eck, Professor of Comparative Religions at Harvard University and author of A New Religious America (2001). Eck spoke about the need for Christians in America to not just "tolerate" their new neighbors, but "know" and "love" them "as they are."

Mr. Antal concluded his talk by sharing about his first encounter with Professor Eck during a meeting at the Department of State in 1998, when she was serving on the Advisory Committee for Religious Freedom Abroad. Mr. Antal and his wife gave testimony at that meeting about the persecution their church had experienced in Japan in the hands of clergy. He shared how that meeting awakened him to the reality of inter-religious conflict and inspired in him the desire to search for religious underpinnings for tolerance and respect for others -- ideas that could promote interfaith dialogue and cooperation.

After the talk, Mr. Antal guided a discussion about, "what in your religious tradition instructs you to love your neighbor, especially your neighbor whose faith is different that your own?" This led to a lively and enlightening discussion.

Following the discussion, ___, mezzo-soprano and wife of Bishop Lee, sang "The Lords Prayer," setting a deep atmosphere for a series of prayers from various traditions. Leaders from the Unification, Christian, Hindu and Muslim communities offered prayers. The event concluded with a word about the significant progress co-sponsor ACLC is having bringing Jews, Christians and Muslims together in the Holy Land. The participants had ample time for further discussion and networking over coffee, and to join Dr. Seidel on a guided tour of the seminary chapel. Everyone left with a gift bag that included a video about the Middle East Peace Initiative.

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