Three religious leaders from Philadelphia spoke to Upper School students this week about the value of interfaith dialogue, discussing how they engage in dialogue and make connections with people of different faiths, and why they feel doing so is important.
"Religious leaders have an obligation to participate in the project, the theology, of interfaith dialogue," said Rabbi Josh Bolton, because that participation offers "an opportunity to drive and inspire the work of peace, justice and equality."
Imam Mubashshir, the resident Imam of the Muslim Community Masjid in West Philadelphia, explained the process. "Dialogue is not the first step in interfaith dialogue," he said. "It is listening. Understanding new perspectives. Learning about others."
During the assembly in the Kurtz Center, students asked the panelists questions about social justice, intra-religious dialogue, faith and doubt.
Rabbi Bolton, the senior Jewish educator at University of Pennsylvania Hillel, noted that many Americans will change their views on faith throughout their life. "Interfaith dialogue takes place both within oneself and without," he said.
Amy Yoder McGloughlin, pastor of the Germantown Mennonite Church, answered a student's question about having conversations within one's own religion, "There can be tremendous misunderstanding and mistrust of each other that makes it tough to be at the table together," she said. "It can be very difficult, very painful. I find that interfaith dialogue often is easier than dialogue within my religion."
Claire Scribner, grade dean for 9th and 10th grades organized the event with students from the Penn Charter Religious Life Committee. "All three faiths on stage — Judaism, Christianity, Islam — are represented in our community," Scribner said. "Interfaith conversations are already happening in the school on an informal basis and students expressed interest and engagement in having these discussions. By the end of the assembly, students were lined up to ask questions of the panelists."