This Sunday through Wednesday (July 15th–18th), I am involved in hosting the North American Interfaith Network (NAIN) 2012 Conference at the Renaissance Atlanta Airport Hotel. NAIN is a network of interfaith organizations in the U.S. and Canada established since 1985. The Conference theme is “Establishing Interfaith Friendly Cities”, and we are advancing the idea that our Civil Rights legacy in Atlanta is a natural and profound prelude into authentic interfaith understandings, practices, relationships, and leadership.
Religious, ethnic, and cultural diversity is now unavoidable. The “other” is everywhere. It is a world reality and even more so an American reality, a dream for some and a nightmare for others. Dr. King saw it, embraced it, and lived within the reality decades ahead of most of us. Never leaving Christianity, and never desiring that others leave our faiths, yet he embraced, emulated, and espoused the universality of his faith and called upon believers of other faiths to do the same. He said:
“We have inherited a large house, a great ‘world house’ in which we live together – black and white, Easterner and Westerner, Gentile and Jew, Moslem and Hindu – a family unduly separated in ideas, culture and interest, who, because we can never again live apart, must learn somehow to live with each other in peace.”
He knew interfaith was more than tolerance. It is respect, appreciation, engagement, dialogue, understanding, and cooperation across faith lines. It is discovering and living within the depth and vision of your faith, and sincere interfaith exchange facilitates that process.
NAIN’s President, Bettina Gray, puts it this way:
“Spiritual awareness is something so simple and so direct, but so challenging that we often attempt to obscure it in elaborate theologies, incarcerate it in institutions, or argue it rather than accept the challenge and live it. Truth knows no human boundary. The Transcendent is Alive and Well with or without us, Above and Beyond our attempts to control It, and It (the Transcendent) continues to manifest Itself throughout our world with surprise, joy, renewed hope, creative freedom, and above all, compassion.”
If you are interested in participating or knowing more about this Conference or on-going efforts to raise Atlanta’s interfaith friendliness to higher ground, go to www.interfaithci.org.
Submitted by Imam Plemon El-Amin