This article by Bill Ryan, first appeared in the Sentinel-Tribune newspaper.
Vijaya Shrestha (left) talks with Nadine Edwards before Shrestha spoke on a panel during the annual Community Interfaith Breakfast at the Wood County Fairgrounds Tuesday morning. (Credit: J.D. Pooley, Sentinel Tribune)
Forgive a Christian reference as the opening to the story of the fifth annual Community Interfaith Breakfast. However, it seems appropriate.
In the Acts of the Apostles in the Christian Bible, it states:
“All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.” — Acts 2:4
For those not familiar with the passage, despite the different languages, each person was able to fully understand everything he or she heard. That message seemed loud and clear at Tuesday’s breakfast at the Junior Fair Building. The panelists represented different faiths as did the featured speakers in a video presentation made by organizers.
This year’s theme was Building Peace Where There’s No Peace.
Art created by Bowling Green school children for this year's fifth annual interfaith breakfast. (Courtesy of NIOT Bowling Green)
“It was very inspiring as a young Christian, it was good to see how the people of different faiths came together,” said Parker Kern, a Bowling Green State University student. “I believe there is only one God, so we all worship God.”
He explained how people of different faiths believe different things, but each faith shares a belief in one creator despite all their differences.
“People need to put aside our differences, at the heart of it, we share the same beliefs,” Kern said.
Bowling Green's fifth annual interfaith breakfast was more popular than ever. (Courtesy of NIOT Bowling Green)
This was the first interfaith breakfast for Rev. Matthew Every, the new pastor at First Christian Church and co-chair of the event. He said it was an incredible show of solidarity of how everyone can come together as a community and with compassion.
Mojabeng Kamala, a member of the Bowling Green Human Relations Commission, said a lot can be gained by listening to others.
“There’s something very necessary about what went on today. The message does not get old. It continues and needs to be told,” she said.
“I sincerely feel we cheat ourselves if we don’t spread the news about the greater good. And if we don’t share what we learn by listening. You need to hear me, you don’t have to agree with me.”
This year’s program featured a video of six people of different faiths, talking about what their faith means to them and if they’ve experienced a negative interaction because of faith or felt stereotyped because of it.
The panelists were also asked to talk about inclusion and diversity as it relates to faith and what it looks like to live in an inclusive community.
Dr. Simon Morgan-Russell, a Buddhist, talked about how faith and belief systems are different, but the same. He compared it to fingers on one hand, representing one religion and the other hand representing a different faith. They are separate, but similar and work together.
“Each one is different, but they are the same,” he said. “The challenge for us is that we must understand the similarities and the differences.”
Rachel Feldman, representing Judaism, said there are commonalities in all religions.
“My faith talks about the golden rule and the principles are universal in all religions,” she said.
Watch the Video
After the videos, there was a live panel that discussed the video and their reactions.
Joe Jacoby, also representing Judaism, said it can be easy to hate someone and discriminate if you don’t take time to learn someone’s story.
“Listening to the others, I am impressed by the range of diversity and agree that we all need to do more listening,” he said. “We need to get to know each other and we do that by listening.”
Imam Farooq Aboelzahab, with the Islamic Society of Northwest Ohio, said this breakfast showed progress and the work ahead.
“I appreciate this forum. There is a lot to be done,” he said. “God greets everyone and asks the same thing of each of us, to respect, be understanding and be good to each other. You are good because of who you are and you need to be faithful to who you are.
“We have to learn to focus on others and show more respect to others. Try to learn everything you can and reveal how everyone else has a lot to give.”
Aboelzahab urged the crowd of more than 200 to read more about all different subjects, to learn and gain a respect of other points of view.
Emily Dunipace, co-chair of Not In Our Town-Bowling Green, closed the ceremony.
“I am walking away from this with a wonderful sense of hope. Your presence here is a call to me to make a difference,” she said. “Our energy here pours out to spell U-N-I-T-Y.
May every sunrise bring you hope and every sunset bring you peace.”