“Let diversity bring us together, rather than drive us apart”
Nathan Day Wilson and Charlie Wiles, Indianapolis Star, December 29, 2019
Hoosiers from all over the state gathered at the Indiana Interchurch Center in Indianapolis on Dec. 4 to proclaim an important and timely truth: We are one human family.
Six months in the making, the gathering included 51 participants from all parts of the state. There were adherents to the Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Sikh, Bahai and Zoroastrianism faiths – and likely others as well. Some 18 interfaith groups were present, including at least six from universities and colleges. Some of the participants were longtime friends, some were allies who had communicated in one way or another but never met, and many were new acquaintances.
This diversity of religion and origin showed even more clearly their singularity of purpose: to build stronger communities through interfaith understanding and cooperation in Indiana.
Coordinated by two interfaith stalwarts, Pastors Jerry and Diane Zehr of Carmel Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the gathering was a historic moment, bringing together organizations and individuals from across the state striving to unleash the positive force created when people work together.
Indiana Interchurch Center was built in 1967 to support the ecumenical movement in Christianity thriving at that time. It served as an ideal location to host and support this nascent movement of faith leaders from across the religious spectrum. And, just as the 1960s and ’70s were a time of social change, we are living through a period that is placing great strain on relations between and among our religious and civic institutions.
The spirit in this gathering, however, was bright and full of the confidence that through faith, all things are possible. It was inspiring and deeply encouraging to hear about the many programs those at the gathering were working on –programs that help increase interreligious understanding and promote cooperation on topics of common concern.
Our faith demands that we recognize the dignity of life, in every person and in all living creatures that inhabit this planet. It is reassuring to witness that there are so many people across the state, and in fact throughout the world, who see our diversity as an asset – as a way to benefit and enrich the community when we are willing to work together and to learn from one another in spite of our differences.
Plans are being made for a larger 2020 celebration. The event may coincide with the eighth annual Festival of Faiths on Sept. 13, or it may be at another time. More information will be available through local communities of faith, the Christian Theological Seminary and the Center for Interfaith Cooperation.
Regardless, the 2020 celebration will remind us of the truths and values we hold most deeply and dearly.
In a time like now, so divided by allegiance to false gods such as money and power, by acts of lovelessness and hatred, and by lines drawn between people according to worldly standards, the truth that we are one human family is desperately needed!
Wilson, an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), blogs about faith topics at www. nathandaywilson.com. Wiles is the executive director of the Center for Interfaith Cooperation.Tags: celebration, charlie wiles, interfaith, Nathan Day Wilson