Brookings Interfaith Council looks to bridge gap between religions

The Brookings Interfaith Council will meet at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 9, at the Islamic Society of Brookings.

The group aims to connect people of differing faiths within the Brookings community, as well as share their culture and food. The upcoming discussion will be about the role of religion in enacting social change.

“It will be a timely topic for us to think about as our nation is going through some upheavals,” said Dianne Nagy, grant proposal specialist at South Dakota State and a member of the Interfaith planning committee. “There are some concerns around some of the increased rhetoric  of exclusion and vilification that people have brought up.”

The previous meeting of the Interfaith Council drew around 30 people from various religions; including Buddhism, Islam and Hinduism. They broke into small groups and discussed how to collaborate across their cultural divides, and work with others who hold fundamentally different beliefs.

“[We] shared the way our fears get in the way of interacting with other people,” said Larry Ort, SDSU introduction to ethics adjunct professor and member of the planning committee. “Sometimes we just don’t know how to communicate with people that are very different than us.”

People shared multiple strategies to overcome their uneasiness, Nagy said. One of the main ways was stepping outside their comfort zone and getting to know people who are different than themselves.

Ort believes that realizing no religions are truly different in their overall goals is one of the best ways to bridge any sort of division. He also wants to see more people at the meetings, giving extra credit to his students if they attend.

“The thing about the world’s great religions [is] they work to promote love and peace,” said Ort. “When it comes to working towards the topic of enacting social change, the question is, fundamentally, what can we do to enhance peace, love and understanding within our communities?”