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Learning about the unfamiliar

August 11, 2005

Shortly after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, a group of Washington County citizens realized that it would be all too easy to harbor prejudice against those of religions that might be unfamiliar to many in this mostly Christian community.

And so they formed the Interfaith Coalition of Washington County. The group has held large events at Hagerstown Community College with speakers from the Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Hindu traditions.

It has also held smaller sessions at the former Frostburg Center downtown where people of different faiths assembled in small groups to talk about their lives, their cultures and their beliefs.

Last year the group worked on "The House that Faith Built," a Habitat for Humanity project in Boonsboro.

The Herald-Mail has supported the work of the coalition because we know that it is all too easy to dislike what you don't know and too easy to harbor prejudice against someone you've never had a meal with.

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This coming Sunday, Aug. 14, from 1 to 4 p.m., the coalition will hold the first of what it hopes will be annual picnics at Black Rock County Park.

If you have never heard of the group, but agree with the idea that learning more about unfamiliar people, cultures and faiths is a good thing, you may want to stop by.

For planning purposes, organizers are asking that attendees call the Rev. Ed Poling at 301-733-3565 or Bunny Fontrier at 301-992-0077.

If you cannot attend this event, but want to learn more about different faiths, the coalition is holding a series of free classes, starting in September, at the Hagerstown YMCA.

Taught by Karen Gray, educated at the Harvard Divinity School, the classes will cover following faiths on these days:

Judaism, Sept. 1; Christianity, Sept. 29; Islam, Nov. 17, Other traditions, Dec. 1. There is no fee, but advance registration, using the above phone numbers, is requested.

In a growing community, does it make sense for our neighbors to be unfamiliar to us? We say it doesn't. Please attend Sunday if possible.

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