The Whole World Is One Family
In the Parliament of World Religions May 2012 newsletter, Phillipe Copeland writes, "According to the Abrahamic traditions, including Judaism, Christianity, Islam and the Baha'i Faith, the universe itself was spoken into being. This offers a fitting metaphor for the promise of interreligious dialogue, the promise of a new creation . . . to fulfill this promise requires attention to detail. We must be attentive not only to what we are dialoguing about but who is engaged in the dialogue."
While Copeland's article, "Faith and Race: A Dialogue Worth Having," focuses on discussion of race (or the absence of it) in interfaith dialogue, his opening sentence itself speaks to the need of broadening his vision and the circle to not just "Abrahamics." However, my friend and co-interfaith activist, Rev. Bob Cornwall, understands this, as evidenced by his keynote address at the recent 18th Annual Troy Community Coalition Prayer Breakfast. The event usually includes, along with a sit-down breakfast, music and prayers for all sectors of the community from individuals who represent many different faiths. The reason for the event? Research shows that youth who participate in a religious community are far less likely to use drugs or alcohol. The Coalition's purpose is to prevent drug and alcohol abuse and promote the health of all in the community.
Rev. Cornwall, or Bob, as friends call him, arrived in Troy about four years ago from Lompoc, California to serve his congregation at Central Woodward Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and immediately engaged with the local interfaith group, of which I, as a co-founder, have been a prominent part. Rev. Cornwall comes with credentials: he is a church historian with two seminary degrees, the founding convener of the Lompoc Interfaith Group (which came together in the aftermath of 9/11), former chair of the Ecumenics Commission for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Michigan, an established writer with a blog and publications that include his latest book, Faith in the Public Square. And this year he added one more credential—he is the Troy-area Interfaith Group's third Convener.
The local interfaith group was founded in 2005 out of a controversy, in which I and other non-Christians were excluded from the city's annual National Day of Prayer and exemplified the need to gather people of all faith backgrounds in Troy's public square. The inclusive members of the community now gather for an annual event every May; the City stopped sponsoring one. Until the controversy, I would have said one's faith and religious convictions are a private affair. The 2005 incident, which splattered the controversy in the Detroit Free Press and other papers, put me and my faith in the public sphere, and I became a self-proclaimed interfaith activist. Bob's arrival in our midst a few years later is one that energized the dialogue about the role of religion in public life, much like his book.
Padma Kuppa is a writer, IT professional, community activist, wife, and mother working to build a more pluralistic society within a Hindu and interfaith framework. You can also read her blog A Balancing Act, at padmakuppa.blogspot.com. The views represented in this column are not a reflection of the views of any organization of which she is a part.