Conference titled “Not in God’s Name from Just War to Just Peace” took place in Cathedral Center of St Paul September 25th with Pacifica Institute undertaking one of the sponsorships.
Joseph Prabhu from South Coast Interfaith Council welcomed the guests and the speakers of the “Not in God’s name from Just War to Just Peace”.
Grace Dyrness from Interfaith Communities United for Peace and Justice in her speech exemplified Indonesia where there is a huge mosque, cathedral and a government institute all standing side by side and for each other at dire times.
The panel featured Jack Miles from University of California Irvine- Distinguished Professor of English and Religious Studies, Najeeba Syeed- Professor of Interreligious Education at Claremont School of Theology, Reuven Firestone-Professor of Medieval Judaism and Islam at Hebrew Union College and Senior Fellow at the Center for Religion and Civic Culture at USC, Daniel Smith- Professor of Theological Studies at Loyola Marymount University, Rita Sherma- Director of the Center for Dharma Studies and Professor at Graduate Theological Union Berkeley, Joseph Prabhu- Professor of Philosophy and Religion at California State University, Los Angeles as the moderator.
Dr Prabhu introduced the speakers and the conference is trying to find a response with the question of terror attacks on Paris, San Bernardino, Brussels and how religion played a part in these gruesome attacks.
Rabbi and Dr Firestone answered that religion has often been a vehicle, an organism, human response to ultimate and human constructs like any other institution problems of power, corruption etc however we want to see them as transcendent. He also added that anxiety toward Islam is part of western culture and seeing the danger and to counter Islamophobia is to recognize the root causes of this disease.
Jack Miles said that Omer Mateen swore allegiance to ISIS, and Islam is susceptible to such distortion, but I repeat religion does not have responsibility but the human kind itself.
Dr Syed added that number of present conflicts casualties by different countries should beg the question to understand the myth of religious violence. Let’s not fall into the trap of blindspots for falling a particular religion of incapable of peace or violence. She added that Sikh communities suffered most out of Islamophobia and this is a new racial distinction. Islam is not a bogey man and is not a foreign concept bearing in mind the African American Muslims serving this country. She also requested not to invite muslim speakers talking about violence but other topics of mercy and compassion in Islam.
Dr Sherma said that we should not be complicit in Islamophobia and what we see is this blame game of religion for political instability, gender bias and other problems. But we should bear in mind the contribution of religion to art, language, music and poetry. What about Hiroshima, climate change and two world wars. When I remember Islam, I remember poetry, art, music and hospitality of my muslim neighbors of African American, Middle East descent.
Daniel Smith said that a well written sitcom would change the perspective of Muslim Americans in this country rather than writing books and organizing panels etc. He added that we should Marshall the popular media far more efficiently and find out the effective ways of communication.
The panel continued with interfaith coffee of small group discusions and ended with George Regas Reception Award where Edina Lekovic, Rev Francisco Garcia and Rabbi Ken Chasen was awarded for this year.