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Interfaith conference promotes tolerance among religions

May 03, 2002|BY SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

If members of different faiths tolerate each other and are just, they can build a foundation of peace that cannot be destroyed, not even by terrorists, Shahab Siddiqui, a member of the Islamic Society of Western Maryland, said Thursday.

"We should all be fair and just to each other," said Siddiqui, who is a doctor.

He made his comments at an interfaith conference held Thursday to strengthen bonds and promote tolerance among Jews, Muslims, Christians and those of other faiths.

The conference, held at the Frostburg University Center in Public Square, drew about 100 people. It was sponsored by the Washington County Council of Churches, Islamic Society of Western Maryland and B'Nai Abraham Congregation.

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The conference followed one held April 11 at Hagerstown Community College. That event drew about 300 people.

The rest of the conference panel Thursday was Rabbi Janice Garfunkel of B'Nai Abraham in Hagerstown; the Rev. Don Stevenson, pastor of Christ's Reformed United Church of Christ; Qasim Burmi, Imam of the Islamic Society of Western Maryland; and Sharda Nand of Gaithersburg, Md., president of the local chapter of the World Hindu Council.

Garfunkel said the United States is a great model of tolerance. She said citizens passionately disagree with each other but do not kill each other.

There will always be differences of opinion about religion and other matters, but one should give others the benefit of the doubt, Garfunkel said.

Ed Poling, pastor of the Hagers-town Church of the Brethren and the panel's moderator, said people's attendance at the conference despite storm warnings showed their commitment to interfaith dialogue.

To have tolerance, people must avoid suggesting their beliefs are superior to others, Nand said.

"What is happening is we are tolerating the intolerance of others," and that must stop, he said.

Even though members of the panel and audience may have different religious beliefs, those beliefs need not prevent people from working together for the common good, Burmi said.

Poling asked the audience to avoid asking political questions, especially about the Middle East. But at one point Faisal Husseini of Hagerstown asked the panel how there can be tolerance when there is "pure Zionist propaganda" in the local newspaper.

Garfunkel said Husseini was referring to a letter Garfunkel had written about the Middle East conflict. He had a response published.

"You think your position is correct. I think my position is correct," she replied.

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