Members of the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council formed a panel at the Plaza Library on June 8, 2008, to address the issue of “Diversity in Religion” which was the concluding segment of Cultural Conversations, a five-part series of engaged dialogues on a variety of multicultural topics co-sponsored by Cultural Crossroads and the Plaza Library during 2008. This concluding Cultural Conversations was also co-sponsored by the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council ().
The panel was moderated by The Rev. Vern Barnet, DMn, of CRES () with the following persons representing some of the faith traditions of the Kansas City Interfaith Council: Syed Eqball Hasan (Muslim), Singh Sahib Karta Purkh S. Khalsa (Sikh Dharma), Rev. Gary Langston (Native American spirituality), Barbara McAtee (Baha’i), Pam Peck (Christian Scientist), Rev. Kathy Reigelman (UU), and Lama Chuck Stanford (Buddhist).
The purpose of the Cultural Conversations series was to provide a forum where members of the public could join in an open discussions of the topic; consequently, rather than give formal presentations, the members of the interfaith panel offered their particular faith’s viewpoint on a variety of questions raised either by Rev. Barnet or by audience members. Rev. Barnet opened the discussion by asking the audience to listen to the wisdom of each religion and not to focus on the size of the religion. He also observed that, in the United States, we are moving from our culture being defined by one faith to a culture based in pluralism. Rev. Barnet illustrated the importance of this increasing American pluralism in a global society with a chart which indicates the world religious demographics.
The panelists addressed questions ranging from response to social issues, like poverty, to more philosophical issues, like fundamentalism. The issues of proselytizing and mutual respect were also raised several times by various of the panel members. The majority of the representatives opined that their religion did not proselytize and all of the panel members recognized that the real strength of the Kansas City interfaith community is the respect held for all faith traditions.
Several members of the audience evidenced interest in learning more about different faith traditions and questioned how to locate information on interfaith events. Both Rev. Barnet and many of the panel representatives brought printed material, which was handed out to the audience.
At the end of the presentation, Rev. Barnet invited the panel members to offer a closing from their respective traditions, which was stated by each panel member in turn as a fitting closing to an afternoon of peaceful discourse and common exploration:
Lama Chuck Stanford, Buddhist: “Do no harm.”
Rev. Gary Langston, Native American Spirituality: Mitakuye Oyasin (“All My Relations”)
Singh Sahib Karta Purkh S. Khalsa, Sikh Dharma: “Love surround you; Light guide you.”
Syed Eqball Hasan, Muslim: “Speak out against harm; at least, change your heart. As-Salāmu `Alaykum.”
Barbara McAtee, the Baha’i Faith: “God is most glorious…praise be to the glory of God.”
Pam Peck, Christian Science: “Divine Love always has met and always will meet every human need.”
Rev. Kathy Reigelman, Unitarian Universalism: “Go now in Peace.”
Though arising from different faith traditions, the sentiments echo a common human value…a universal desire for peace and a universal acknowledgement of Love as a primary guiding principle.
(Cultural Conversations was an occasional series of presentations on a cultural topic,
co-sponsored by Cultural Crossroads and the Plaza Library, from 2008 t0 2012)