Join an Interfaith Conversation

``How Americans of all faiths and beliefs can engage with one another to shape a positive pluralism is one of the essential questions -- perhaps the most important facing American society. While race has been the dominant American issue in the past century, religious diversity in our civil and neighborly lives is emerging, mostly unseen, as the great challenge of the 21st century.'' -- Diana Eck

Are you seeking ways to promote more unity and understanding among peoples of different races and religions? If so, I hope you will attend the Eastside Multicultural and Interfaith Fair 2005 at Bellevue Community College from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.on Saturday, April 9.

A variety of activities and programs will be running simultaneously. Families can enjoy an array of activities at the Kids Fair as well as cultural dances, music performances, films, arts and crafts, and ethnic foods at various places on the BCC campus.

Among those events is the Interfaith Conversation Café, which will be held from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. in Cafeteria Room C-130. Susan Partnow, director of the national initiative Lets Talk America, will open the conversations and offer some guidelines. Participants will be asked to show:

1 Open-mindedness: Listen with respect to all points of view.

2. Acceptance: Suspend judgment toward others ideas and beliefs.

3. Curiosity: Seek to understand rather than persuade.

There will be facilitated small group conversations on the topics of: ``Views of life after death and how they affect the way I live now'' and ``What are the most difficult principles of my faith to practice.'' This is an opportunity to listen, learn and share with neighbors from a variety of world religions and start to build community.

Conversations on race and culture will be held from 3 to 5 p.m. Phil Lucas, a Native American filmmaker and BCC faculty member will offer thoughts to spark facilitated small group discussions.

We, as members of the Mercer Island community, have had many years of experience attending interfaith gatherings such as the Thanksgiving and baccalaureate services, as well as prayer services given after various tragedies occurred on the Island. Unfortunately, enormous tragedies fueled by religious and racial prejudices are escalating throughout the world. We must challenge ourselves to learn new ways to listen and share with each other with deep compassion and understanding. We must meet this challenge to have any hope for lasting peace and security for all mankind.

Everyone is invited to the conversation cafe.

I especially hope many of our high school and college students will participate in these conversations. As Mahatma Ghandi once said, ``You must be the change you wish to see in the world.''

Susan Carol Price is on the Program Committee for the Multicultural Fair ( She is an elected member of the Spiritual Assembly of the Bahai's of Mercer Island and a member of the Mercer Island Clergy Association.


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