Religious experts explore other faiths

Champaign, USA - There are two things people should never to bring to the dinner table: politics and religion. But when four experts of clashing religions converge on grounds to understand one another, the outcome like the attempt, is unparalleled.

The McKinley Presbyterian Church and Foundation hosted the “Interfaith Religious Dialogue Series,” and the theme on Wednesday was “Traditions within Traditions: Schools, Sects and Denominations.” The discussion served as a crash course about the foundations of Judaism, Islam, Christianity and Tibetan Buddhism.

Each speaker discussed how the religion came about.

Opening with discussion about Judaism, Paul Weichsel, finance chair of Sinai Temple, 3104 Windsor Road, Champaign, delved into three major sects of Judaism: Reform, Conservative and Orthodox.

He said the sects started during the European Enlightenment when individual rights and freedoms took hold. Religious traditions changed when “people began to rethink doctrines and practices of Judaism. People hadn’t done that in 2,000 years.”

Mohammad Khalil, professor in religion, spoke about Islam’s three major dichotomies: Sunni, Shi’ite and Sufism.

He said the Muslim Prophet would speak but then be quickly corrected by the Quran. When the Prophet died, Muslims then asked the question, “How do we preserve the integrity of the religion without an infallible Prophet?”

Muslims then divided based on who they believed to be the Khalif, or the religious leader of Islam. They originally separated between Sunnis and Shi’ites; however, Sufis emerged after time as a third major sect of Islam. Sufis can practice Sunni or Shi’ite beliefs.

Susan Taylor and Jason Mierek, who both practice Buddhism, also served on the panel. However, Mierek served as the representative of Christianity after being asked to by individuals who hosted the event.

“When you’re Buddhist and say Christianity, people learn about how many different things Christianity can mean,” he said.

The event garnered an audience from all walks of life.

Adriana Black, student from St. Louis University, attended the event to gain a broader understanding of how religions influence society.

When considering outcomes of the dialogue, Black said, “If religious pluralism is taken more into account…it could minimize the conflicts that face our world today, if not eradicate them.”