Friday, February 3, 2012

Reflection on Interfaith by Catherine Castro

The purpose of the Emerging Minds Project (EMP) is to create an intellectually open and dynamic environment for students to learn about and discuss social justice issues of today. Each month, a group of students come together at 5710 to dialogue with an experienced facilitator who works in the field.

This blog is an outlet for each of our members' voices. While this is a collection of their personal thoughts, we hope to display a glimpse of the multifaceted ways that each topic impacts the individual members of the EMP cohort.

*The views and opinions expressed in these blog entries are that of each individual author and do not necessarily reflect a collective opinion of the EMP cohort or that of the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs.

Reflection on Interfaith by Catherine Castro

Religion can be such a strong and unifying force. It has the power to bring people from different cultures under one faith and create a community of loyal and devoted followers. While religions tend to be accepting of people of different backgrounds, categorizing individuals under a certain religion, by nature, can be a process of exclusion. By labeling ourselves as Christian, Muslim, Hindi, Jewish Buddhist etc. an automatic divide is naturally built that separates non-believers from believers. I cannot say for sure that people do this consciously or unconsciously but in either case, this divide and categorization in our minds is inevitable. How then, do we break these natural barriers? How do we stay strong in our personal faiths without ostracizing our fellow religious and non-religious brothers and sisters? Three weeks ago, Mr. Hakan Berberoglu, the president of the Niagara spoke to EMP and proposed an interesting solution- interfaith dialogue. Communication is one of the key things to any successful relationship and therefore, I believe Hakan’s proposition definitely has merit to it. However, can this solution be considered realistic? Is it a realistic approach to try and get people of different faiths with opposing views and at times strained pasts to come peacefully together with the some similar goal in mind? If the foundation of a person’s faith is that their belief that their sole religion is the one and only path to their conception of “salvation” and “heaven”, then it seems to me counterproductive to try to foster acceptance amongst these religions through the medium of interfaith dialogue.
In a perfect and cooperative world, this might be the right solution but presently, I think that change and understanding of various faiths can only truly come about on the individual basis first. Only when the inner desire to break down religious barriers and misconceptions resides in an individual himself can this power be truly manifest and spread to the rest of the community. Most importantly, I believe that education about world religions from an early age is the most promising tool for fostering good relations amongst people of different faiths in the future. One can never fully understand the experience of another without experiencing it ourselves and hence, rather than strive for a perfect understanding and ideal relationships, all we can do is try to get as close to the truth and harmony as possible by doing everything within in our means to dismantle intellectual and social barriers.