Faiths Find Common Ground in Tragedy

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), September 6, 2003 | Go to article overview

Faiths Find Common Ground in Tragedy


Byline: From Heart to Heart for The Register-Guard

At 7 p.m. Thursday, an Interfaith Prayer & Reflection Service will be held at First Christian Church, 1166 Oak St., Eugene. In anticipation of this service, several questions were posed to the local interfaith community about how members are responding spiritually to the events of Sept. 11, 2001.

Spokesmen for Twin Rivers Interfaith Ministries, which has held such services monthly for the past two years, believe that "the development of relationships with those who worship differently than we do shows the possibility of dissolving, in our own communities and internationally, the prejudices and misunderstandings that initiated the events of 9-11."

Question: How would you describe the difference between religion and spirituality?

Answer: Without spirituality, religion is lifeless. Religion in Hinduism is known as dharma: the Spiritual Force, Truth, Law and Virtue. Spirituality is the very essence of dharma, the inner core. Dogma, doctrines and theology make up the body of religion and spirituality the life force. The words for spirit in Sanskrit are "incorporeal" and "breath." We may not be able to see the breath because of its subtle nature, but it is the essence of a living being. Inner essence finds expression through the body of religion. Hinduism sees spirituality, the breath of the divine, as the common ground of all religions.

- Veena Howard,

Hindu tradition

Question: How does inner peace express itself in your daily life?

Answer: In the midst of bombarding requests for my attention - two part-time businesses, completing graduate school, managing a household and finishing up a renovation - I remember to stop for one conscious breath between activities and say "Bismillah" - we begin in the name of God. I also invite remembering with "Bismillah" as I step over thresholds, whether they be physical, mental or emotional. When I notice that I have forgotten, I thank God for the reminder and start fresh. As Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi says, "Even if you have broken your vows a thousand times, come, come again."

- Amrita Skye Blaine

Sufi tradition

Answer: Inner peace comes to me by stopping, by getting quiet, by going inside, by opening up to the All, by being aware I am part of the All - now, and always. That's easy to do when I am surrounded by beauty or peace; but even then, I may forget. It is more difficult when I am immersed in pain, anguish, fear, rage or ugliness, but then that is the true test-time for my spiritual awareness and consciousness; those times are my "teachers."

- Irwin Noparstak, Temple Beth Israel

Question: What actions of ours (as an individual and/or community) will make significant impacts on our interfaith understanding and national/community security?

Answer: We must be lovers of light no matter from what lamp it appears. We must be lovers of the rose no matter in what garden it blooms. We must be seekers of truth no matter from what source it comes. Attachment to the outer forms and practices of religion can deprive us of understanding the truth of all religions. If we understand this, we will be able to see that the Divine Light of Truth shone in all the Manifestations of God - in Adam, Abraham, Moses, Krishna, Buddha, Zoroaster, Christ, Muhammad, the Bab and Baha'u'llah.

- Gladys Stewart

Baha'i tradition

Answer: The time has come for an honest and respectful dialogue about those teachings of every religion that seem to call for violence, war, conversion by force or pressure, supremacy, exclusiveness or hatred. Every major religious community (Islam, Christianity and Judaism) needs to commit itself to identifying and condemning its own destructive misinterpretations and teachings, and to taking appropriate action toward the subgroups that cling to them. We Muslims have had to face this challenge. …

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