Students and staff gather for interfaith forum.
Lewis University’s Multicultural Student Services collaborated with both the Peace Studies department and Catholic Relief Services Ambassadors to host a variety of events in honor of International Education week.
Dr. James Burke, associate professor in the theology department and director of center for ministry and spirituality, presented an interfaith forum titled “Welcoming Our Neighbors: Environmental Justice” on Tuesday, Nov. 14. This forum was the last event of a three-part series held throughout the day and posed an important question, “who is our neighbor?”
Burke began the forum by introducing the event’s panelists. Among those contributing to the conversation were Sheikh Hasan Aly of Willowbrook’s Mecca Center, Sr. JoAnn Persch, Catholic Sister of Mercy, Rev. Beth Freese Dammers of Community Presbyterian Church, Rev. Dr. David Latimore of Mt. Zion Baptist Church and Rabbi Ricky Kamil of Congregation Etz Chaim. In effort to bring a sense of multiculturalism to the event, panelists came from a wide range of backgrounds and all offered their unique perspectives, experiences and traditions in relation to environmental justice.
Community members were reminded by Burke to “have their hearts and minds open to hear wonderful details about communities and lives lived in an effort to build bridges between communities and people from different religions.” Before beginning discussion, Burke invited everyone to gather for prayer.
Students, panelists and other members of the event spent time reflecting upon crucial issues and questions regarding environmental justice and how it specifically relates multiculturalism. Event goers were prompted to think about the different efforts that can be taken to be more environmentally friendly and conscious.
An initial topic brought up was global climate change. As Burke stated, “almost every nation in the world agreed to place a priority on fighting global climate change and healing the world and doing this together”.
After prayer and initial discussion, the majority of the event was centered around an open forum. Each panelist was encouraged to take about 5 to 7 minutes to share their wisdoms in relation to how their culture has shaped their views of environmental justice and how their traditions have helped promote a healthier world. In addition to panelists sharing their thoughts, event members were also given an opportunity to share their ideas, opinions and reflections with the group.
Kamil touched on his personal connection between his Jewish faith and global consciousness. Kamil explained that the Torah, the Jewish Hebrew Bible, says that when humanity was created, people were given dominion over the world. “If that is the case that humanity can rule over the world, that means we have a special responsibility to take great care of it,” he explained. Kamil also went into detail about how the book of Genesis explains that when the first humans, Adam and Eve, were created, they were given special commandments to work and take care of the Earth.
Kamil’s discussion of Adam and Eve was just one example of how different cultures and traditions can relate to embracing and spreading global justice. Other panelists and event goers offered ideas related to creation, environmental responsibility and global conscientiousness, reminding everyone that it is our responsibility to take care of each other and our Earth.
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