by ALICIA SMITH Staff writer
Down the street from the Rochester International Airport, where individuals from all corners of the world cross paths , a diverse group gathered to discuss the crossing paths of different religions and the role of faith in society.
A banner printed “Love for all, Hatred for none” hung on a table where a panel composed of Jewish rabbi, a Unitarian, a Buddhist, a Muslim and a Catholic sat side by side in front of a crowd as colorful as they were.
The Rochester Chapter of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community hosted an Interfaith Symposium Sunday afternoon at the Holiday Inn Rochester Airport, 911 Brooks Ave.
Mubarak Bashir, the director of faith outreach for the Rochester chapter, organized Sunday’s event.
“I want people to learn about other religions and focus on the similarities instead of the differences,” Bashir said.
Marvin Mich, director of social policy at Catholic Family Center, served as the mediator for the discussion. George Dardess, an ordained deacon in the Roman Catholic Church represented Christianity and Rabbi Alan J. Katz gave a Jewish viewpoint.
“I think interfaith dialogue is so important, especially when there’s so much sensitivity to religious difference,” said Nanci Rose-Ritter, a panelist closely aligned with the Tibetan Dzogchen tradition.
Jay Learned, who recently completed his PhD in American History at the University of Rochester, represented those of a non-religious and Unitarian faith. Raised a fundamentalist, Learned is now a member of Rochester First Unitarian Church.
“Religion plays such a crucial role in society,” Learned said in an interview before the program. “I think we need to consciously work to get religion to function on the positive side.”
He also discussed whether or not the world would be a better place without religion. He said research that found correlations between high religiosity and higher rates of crime. Still, he said, religion plays an integral role in society.
“I’m not sure that you can appreciate the interconnectedness of life without religion,” Learned said. “We learn and benefit from worshiping with others.”
Bashir added, “If everyone followed their religion the way it is supposed to be followed, there would be world peace.”