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Speakers encourage students to seek interfaith solutions

Posted on 11.20.2013

Overcoming differences was one of the topic of the second annual interfaith lecture in McCleary Chapel on Nov. 8. Interfaith lectures are set up to have a person from one religious tradition speak, followed by a response from someone of a different religious tradition.


Charlie Wiles, executive director of the Center for Interfaith Cooperation, speaks about the importance of learning about religious traditions other then one’s own, saying it could lead to a more peaceful world.

One of the speakers was Charlie Wiles, executive director of the Center for Interfaith Cooperation, which works to widen the interfaith community here in Indianapolis and elsewhere.
Wiles, a Christian, discussed the main aspirations of interfaith in general, which are to understand one another and find peace in the world. He said that he sees this nation as over-militarized. However,  he believes that interfaith could be a solution to the problem.
“Religion can change what we can do to make ourselves safer,” he said.
Sophomore social work major Steven Freck agreed that interfaith can have a big impact.
“Anytime people are able to overcome their differences and focus on a common goal, the world can be changed,” he said.
The second speaker was Rabbi Nadia Siritsky, who worked as an interfaith chaplain for the American Red Cross after the tragedy of 9/11. Siritsky said that she also aims to understand others. She said that through relationships with other people, we can also better understand ourselves.
She believes her purpose here on Earth is to be a bridge from one person to another, such as working as a translator between two people or explaining her world and way of living to someone else.
Freck said that he pondered his own relationships and beliefs after the lecture.
“It [the lecture] increased my knowledge of what interfaith is and challenged me to look at how my beliefs are influencing the relationships that I have,” he said.
Siritsky went on to mention the fact that charity and justice share the same word in the Hebrew language. To explain the reasoning behind that, she used world hunger as an example. She said that while it is extremely important to build food pantries, it is also just as vital to find out what caused world hunger in the first place.
Dean of Ecumenical and Interfaith Programs and Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religion Michael Cartwright agreed with this viewpoint.
“World hunger can’t simply be solved by food pantries,” he said.
Siritsky ended her presentation with a story about her challenging relationship with a man in a hospice. The man had been continually incarcerated and was angry at the world. Every time Siritsky would come in to talk to him, she would be yelled out of the room. However,  she kept coming back, and he eventually started to talk about the struggles in his life. She ended up holding his hand while he died.
Cartwright said that he was impacted by the story.
“She not only told that story, she felt that story. She’s a very authentic person,” he said.
Freck referred back to the purpose of why Siritsky said she was here on Earth.
“Her story demonstrates how love and faith can bridge any gap,” he said. “No matter how big it is or what’s on the other side.”


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