West Michigan has a rich history of engagement in interfaith dialogue, largely because of the organizations Sylvia Kaufman, a respected community leader, has founded. Sylvia initiated the first community dialogue on interfaith issues through the former West Shore Committee for Jewish/Christian Dialogue in 1989. Since that time, hundreds of premier scholars, clergy, citizens, and students from the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim faiths have come together every three years for a conference, now known as the Jewish/Christian/Muslim Triennial Interfaith Dialogue.
2018: RELIGIOUS IDENTITY: DIVIDING OR UNITING?
THIS YEAR'S SPEAKERS
Eboo Patel is Founder and President of Interfaith Youth Core. He received his doctorate in the sociology of religion from Oxford University where he studied on a Rhodes scholarship.
Jennifer Howe Peace is Professor of Interfaith Studies at Andover Newton Theological School, now affiliated with the Yale Divinity School. She received her doctorate in the Historical and Cultural Study of Religions from the Graduate Theological Union.
Elliot J. Cosgrove is Senior Rabbi at Park Avenue Synagogue, the largest Conservative synagogue in New York City. Ordained at The Jewish Theological Seminary, Rabbi Cosgrove earned his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago Divinity School.
This year's Triennial Dialogue is scheduled for Wednesday, November 14 and Thursday, November 15, 2018.
Wednesday's pre-conference will take place in the Kirkhof Center on GVSU's Allendale campus in the Grand River Room from 5:30pm-7:00pm. During this pre-conference session directed at a primarily student audience, each speaker will present a 10-15 minute introduction/summary to the conference topic: “Religious Identity: Dividing or Uniting?" followed by approximately 45 minutes of discussion and questions.
Thursday's conference will take place in the on GVSU's downtown campus in the Eberhard Center from 9:30AM-5:00PM.
9:30AM - Conference begins
9:45AM - Welcome by Sylvia Kaufman
10:00AM - Session I – Jewish Presentation by Elliot J. Cosgrove with responses by Jennifer Howe Peace and Eboo Patel followed by discussion and Q&A from the audience.
11:45AM - Lunch
1:00PM - Session II – Christian Presentation by Jennifer Howe Peace with responses by Eboo Patel and Elliot Cosgrove followed by discussion and Q&A from the audience.
2:45PM - Break
3:00PM - Session III – Muslim Presentation by Eboo Patel with responses by Elliot Cosgrove, Jennifer Howe Peace followed by discussion and Q&A from the audience.
4:45PM - Conclusion
This event is free but registration is required.
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks pointed out that the 21st century has led to a polarization driven by the politics of identity. This is in contrast, he argues, to the 20th century dominated by the politics of ideology, the battle between two universal ideologies, communism vs. capitalism.
Political and religious identities have led to division and a tribalism that has fractured our society, isolating us into separate echo chambers. Technology has allowed us to relate primarily with those with whom we identify, those who are like us and with whom we already agree. At the same time at the personal level our identities are becoming more hyphenated. We are not just American, but we struggle with what it means to be Muslim-American or Jewish-American. It is no longer be assumed that being American means being Christian.
Will religious communities contribute to this division, or do we have the resources in our traditions and texts that can bring us together to find a shared commitment to the common good? Can we be faithful to our religious identities and also be committed to an interfaith vision that builds bridges rather than barriers?
This is the challenge we face. Will we contribute to further division or to a unity that respects and learns from our religious differences and commitments?
2015: TO REPAIR THE WORLD: HOW DOES RELIGION HELP OR HINDER?
In our world of poverty, violence, and pollution, all religions are called to repair the world, to make it a better place. During the Year of Interfaith Service, we came together to examine how our religious traditions and scriptures have helped in this effort, as well as ways in which they have hindered. We are called to be of service to our fellow humans, to those in need, to our environment, and to bring peace.
The 2015 event was a day-long program modeled after past Dialogues, including major presentations and responses by Donniel Hartman, Cynthia Campbell, and Ingrid Mattson. Videos of the event are below.
First Session: Donniel Hartman
Second Session: Cynthia Campbell
Third Session: Ingrid Mattson
On Thursday, October 29th, 2015, we hosted our Triennial Jewish/Christian/Muslim Dialogue on To Repair the World: How Does Religion Help or Hinder?
Passages From Our Traditions
2012: LIVING WITH GOD IN A TIME OF SUFFERING
Individuals experience suffering and evil in ways that often challenge their faith commitment and understanding. How does the religious parent deal with the experience of a child suffering from cancer or severely injured by a drunk driver? How does a faith community respond to a horrendous evil such as the Holocaust or a tsunami or violent earthquake that takes the lives of hundreds of thousands, or even millions? What are the resources in the Jewish, Christian and Muslim scriptures and faith traditions that help us deal with such challenges to one’s faith? The Triennial Dialogue, in the context of our community’s year of interfaith understanding, addressed these hard questions that we face as individuals and as faith communities.
The 2012 Triennial Dialogue was the culminating event of the Year of Interfaith Understanding and included major presentations and responses by Donniel Hartman, Cynthia Campbell, and Omid Safi as well as a musical performance by Qawal Najmuddin Saifuddin & Brothers as part of Arts Midwest World Fest. Videos of the event are below.
First Session: Donniel Hartmann
Second Session: Cynthia Campbell
Third Session: Omid Safi
On October 30, 2012, we hosted the Triennial Jewish/Christian/Muslim Dialogue on "Living with God in a Time of Suffering"
2009: RELIGION AND THE CHALLENGES OF MODERNITY
The 2009 event's theme was "Religion and the Challenges of Modernity" and included major presentations and responses by Donniel Hartman, James Carroll, and Vincent Cornell. Videos of the event are below.
Responses Part One
Responses Part Two
2006: RELIGION AND POWER: THE POWER TO CREATE, THE POWER TO DESTROY
The 2006 event was entitled "Religion and Power: The Power to Create, the Power to Destroy" Donniel Hartmann, James Carroll, and Vincent Cornell provided presentations and responses. Audio only available.