Interfaith Amigos talk inclusiveness at Marietta College

Photo by Michael Kelly The Interfaith Amigos — Imam Jamal Rahman, left, Pastor Don Mackenzie, center, and Rabbi Ted Falcon, right — spoke, laughed and even sang to a group of about 300 people in the Alma McDonough Auditorium at Marietta College.

MARIETTA — They’re on a mission, so to speak.

The Interfaith Amigos offered an hour of humor, wisdom and insight for about 300 people who gathered in the Alma McDonough Auditorium at Marietta College Friday night.

The three clergymen — Imam Jamal Rahman, a Muslim Sufi minister, Pastor Don Mackenzie, a United Church minister, and Rabbi Ted Falcon, a Reform tradition Jewish leader — came together for mutual support after Sept. 11. For 16 years they have been spreading an international interfaith message and have published three books.

The men are on a mission to spread the recognition of inclusiveness rather than differences between religious beliefs, and explained that core beliefs are shared beliefs among the world’s faiths.

Falcon said God is “a being without whom nothing else could exist” and part of that one-ness, he said, “is the consciousness of me seeing you and you seeing me as the same.”

That oneness, he said, brings ethical axioms: “When we do harm to another, we do harm to ourselves.”

The teachings of Jesus, Mackenzie said, are framed by that, and a core belief of Christianity is the great virtue of unconditional love, which is grace, and “forgiveness is at its heart.”

The core teaching of Islam, Rahman said, is compassion, and the command to be compassionate can be found throughout the Quran. “The Prophet, blessed be his name, tells us to be compassionate toward ourselves and toward others.”

With that common ground among the faiths, the Imam said, “Why is the world in this state?”

“We have learned from history that we do not learn from history,” he said. “But we have sages who call us back.” Falcon said in Judaism they are known as prophets, those who called people back to God’s ways, and Mackenzie said for Christians, that was Jesus.

“Now, we have reached the stage where we need to call ourselves back,” Falcon said.

An interfaith dialogue is a way of doing that, the men said.

They recognized that the people attending Friday night’s event were those who already believe in the power of that dialogue, and offered from their experiences ways to take that dialogue forward and outward, including meeting others in the context of shared stories as human beings, talking about the anchor beliefs of one another’s traditions, examining their own practices, having tough conversations and listening to one another, and adopting spiritual practices to become more complete, developed human beings.

In addressing the notion of Jews being God’s chosen people, Falcon said, “Each of us are already the one we were chosen to be. What we need to ask is, ‘What do we have that we can use to make things better?'”

“Without spiritual practices, it is almost impossible to move toward unconditional love,” Mackenzie said.

The Quran, Rahman said, “tell us to surrender your ego. When you do that, you find that everywhere you turn is the face of God.”

Janet Terry, a member of the Interfaith Committee, said after the event that it had been a welcome respite and change.

“It was useful, especially in Marietta, where we have so little diversity,” she said. “Thinking about this helps people clarify their own beliefs.

“There’s so much yelling and anger in the world now. A little quiet reflection is not a bad thing.”