U religious experts discuss interfaith issues

Courtney Lewis

A group of panelists discussed interfaith dialogue – an issue that affects the University community as well as the world at large – in the Humphrey Center on Thursday afternoon.

Led by Gary McLean, coordinator of Adult Education & Human Resource Development, panelists addressed the importance of maintaining and improving dialogue between different faiths.

Organized by the Minnesota International Student Association, questions were raised about the need for dialogue and how different religions frame certain issues.

One panelist, Amy Olson, executive director of Hillel Jewish Student Center, said the dialogue aims to create a “two-way street” in which participants are able “to learn, to understand and to be respected.”

After each scholar presented personal views on dialogue and the ideologies of their respective religions, members from the audience asked questions.

“I like the point they made that religion is not the cause of the war,” said Amir Shahsavand, a College of Liberal Arts senior.

The panel attempted to find a solution to religious conflicts. Olson brought up the story of creation and communicated a universal belief of the panel.

“We’ve all started from a common ground, and I think that’s important to remember,” she said.

Oda Muhawesh, a Muslim minister from Jordan who has lived in the United States for the past 24 years, agreed with Olson.

The discussion was part of the ongoing activities of International Education Week.

Sulieman Nader, MISA president, said the group began organizing the discussion a few weeks ago.

“A lot of people were excited to do it, but also people were hesitant,” Nader said.

Nader said International Education Week “took a blow” when several invited speakers couldn’t get visas because of recently tightened borders.

At the discussion, both Nadir Budhwani, a graduate student from Pakistan, and Muhawesh expressed appreciation for opportunities available to them in the United States.

“I believe that, in this country, we have a great opportunity, and with it comes a great responsibility to educate ourselves and go out into the world to become leaders,” Muhawesh said.

Nader said he has already begun planning another dialogue discussion for February or March.

Courtney Lewis welcomes comments at [email protected]