Interfaith Series Examines Texts
Published: Tuesday, October 8, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, October 8, 2013 02:10
A discussion between Georgetown chaplains of the biblical figure Joseph led to the creation of an interfaith text series that launches tonight at 7 p.m.
“There was such a vast difference in the way that we approached the story,” Director of the Protestant Chaplaincy Rev. Bryant Oskvig said. “We want to move from a shallow interfaith dialect to something with a lot of depth, which means that we have to move into those darker spaces.”
In tonight’s discussion, “The Chosen, the Saved and the Damned,” the chaplains, representing Muslim, Protestant, Catholic, Jewish and Greek Orthodox faith traditions, intend to explore contentious aspects of religious exclusivity, including salvation and chosenness.
“I think it’s important for us to confront the deep issues in our traditions, where we differ, show that we can do so in a safe atmosphere and really face head-on the challenges that our traditions present to each other, and not to shy away from that,” Director of the Jewish Chaplaincy Rabbi Rachel Gartner said.
One of the primary goals in the discussion is for the participants to learn about other religions as well as to take a closer look at their own faith.
Tomorrow, the chaplains will present the beliefs and positions of their respective religions following weeks of research into religious texts and weekly lunches together. They will then open the floor to questions from students.
“We’re going to really sort of name the exclusive claim that Christianity has and where the tensions in that are,” Oskvig said.
Georgetown often engages in interfaith dialogue, but the chaplains say this endeavor will be the first to openly acknowledge religious tensions as part of discussion.
“We’re not pretending that those tensions don’t exist,” Oskvig said. “So often you put those tensions in the corner and say that’s something we’re not going to worry about, but it’s a very real part of who we are and the traditions from which we come.”
Gartner, who has participated in interfaith conversations with Jewish groups, believes that the diversity of religious viewpoints will add a new challenge.
“Speaking within your community, you all have a common level of literacy,” Gartner said. “The challenge of doing this interfaith is that you have to layer in not only an exploration of the concept that you’re trying to develop but the methodology, the background, the approach.”
Director of the Muslim Chaplaincy Imam Yahya Hendi will focus his presentation on the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks and their effects on the Muslim faith. He will encourage students, specifically Muslims, to view religious texts as open to interpretation, and he will promote the inclusiveness of Islam.
“I don’t understand Islam to be an exclusivist religion, and I do not understand the Quran to be an exclusivist text,” Hendi said. “Actually, I see it more embracing than many people would want it to be, embracing to the other.”
Rather, Imam Hendi said he believes that Islam ought to be interpreted as inclusivist; since it was founded after the establishment of Judaism and Christianity, it includes many of their teachings and beliefs in its own religious texts.
“Islam believes itself to be the seal of religions,” Hendi said. “Islam brings into its fold so many of the teachings of the Bible of Christianity and of Judaism.”
Director of the Catholic Chaplaincy Fr. Patrick Rogers, S.J, and Director of the Orthodox Christian Chaplaincy Fr. Constantine White will also participate in the series, which Oskvig characterized succinctly.
“This ain’t no namby-pamby interfaith dialogue,” he said.