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Interfaith forum created to foster understanding

January 29, 2003|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

The goal of a Feb. 4 interfaith dialogue forum at Hagerstown Community College's Kepler Theater is to help people of different religions and backgrounds celebrate their similarities instead of fearing their differences.

The forum panel will include leaders from the Muslim, Jewish and Christian communities in Washington County. Task force members are from the Washington County Council of Churches, the Islamic Society of Western Maryland and Synagogue B'Nai Abraham.

"We've done three of these before, including a similar one last April which brought 350 people to the Kepler Theater," said the Rev. Ed Poling of the Hagerstown Church of the Brethren. "There were speeches and a lively discussion."

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The Feb. 4 forum will be from 7 to 9 p.m. and Poling said he hoped it would attract an even wider audience. The subject is "Religion and State," with discussion of how issues of church and state have been critical in the formation of a democratic society in America.

With the increased diversity in religious practices and beliefs in the 21st century, people struggle to understand the appropriate role of religious communities in political life, Poling said.

The forums are designed to promote understanding and avoid suspicion.

The first forum in 2003 will be followed by additional meetings geared toward smaller discussion groups, Poling said. Last year, those smaller groups met at the Frostburg Center in downtown Hagerstown.

The next meetings are planned for March 4 and April 1, both at 7 p.m., Poling said.

During the forum, questions will be raised for reflection and dialogue through the panel discussion.

"Washington County has been used to a level of diversity," said Poling, coordinating chairman of the task force.

More information can be obtained by contacting Poling at 301-733-3565 or Dr. Shahab Siddiqui at 301-791-2510 or 301-714-2192.

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