Dialogue Served Up At Interfaith Roundtable
Nov 14, 2006

Dialogue Served Up At Interfaith Roundtable

by Tahira Muhammad, Chronicle Correspondent


<B><I>(Tahira Muhammad) </I>Harmehar Kaur, 9, participates in an interfaith dialogue in Richmond Hill last Sunday.</B>


(Tahira Muhammad) Harmehar Kaur, 9, participates in an interfaith dialogue in Richmond Hill last Sunday.

   Members of different ethnic and religious communities gathered in Richmond Hill last Sunday to address an array of religious issues in the borough and city, including hate crimes.

   Organized by members of the United Sikhs, the gathering was held on Sunday at Royal Indian Palace on Atlantic Avenue .

   In keeping with the principles of the Sikh faith—peace and love for all humanity—the meeting was envisioned as an opportunity to foster understanding between members of different faiths and backgrounds. The conference featured talks by guest speakers and audience members. Though only females spoke in the afternoon, roughly half the 75 member audience was male.

   Speakers, including the Anti Defamation League’s Jennifer Rapoport, focused on steps that could be taken to further interfaith dialogue. She explained the measures taken by her organization to bridge the gap between Jews and Muslims.

   “Our organization tries to unite with the other faith communities when a hate crime occurs, especially in reference to the recent hate crime against Shahid Amber,” she said, referring to a Brooklyn Muslim who was attacked by five Orthodox Jewish teenagers. “In this case, we tried to go beyond just the nature of the hate crime and tried to work together with identifying the problem and building an understanding of one another so these types of incidents do not happen again,” she added.

   Rapoport pointed out that Brooklyn hate crimes are rare and that she hopes that her organization can increase cultural understanding in the predominantly South Asian and Jewish areas there.

   Jasleen Kaur, a member of United Sikhs, considered both the losses incurred on 9/11 and the doors it opened for different religious groups. Her company, International Civil and Human Rights Advocacy, lost 91 employees in the attacks.

   Many members of the Sikh community were blamed for the attacks and mistaken for Arabs, making them victims of hate crimes. Kaur’s approach, however, is not to react to hate with hate but to educate people on the teachings of the Sikh faith and the differences in beliefs.

   She believes that through education, one can conquer ignorance and fear and hopes that this philosophy will grow within others. “The Sikh faith emphasizes unity and all of humanity can be unified through peace, love and understanding,” she said.
   With the majority of those in attendance either Sikhs or Indians, Nurah Amat’uallah, director of the Muslim Woman’s Institute for Research and Development, lamented the lack of different ethnicities represented there. She thanked the Sikh community for inviting her to the forum, but wondered if people in general were truly ready to come together and understand each other.

   “ Nine eleven was the benchmark for opportunities that can only be taken advantage of if we are honest within ourselves,” she said. She closed her presentation by asking: “Are we truly ready to learn from one another and appreciate our differences?”

   Harmehar Kaur, a 9 year old Sikh girl, expressed her thoughts on peace, love and humanity in a colorful speech titled “Why I Am Sikh.” She expressed her love of the Sikh faith’s simplicity and its teachings of love and respect for everyone. “This world would be a better place and would be like a heaven on earth if everyone recognized that the human race is one,” she said.
   The forum ended with various audience members relaying their personal hate crime experiences. Everyone in the audience agreed that the best way to solve these problems was through education, dialogue and networking.

Article by Courtesy of http://www.zwire.com
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