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Interfaith Symposium addresses common controversies

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Abby Taylor

Assistant News Editor

Students and faculty gathered to ask a panel of religious leaders how they respond to different current and controversial topics at “Let’s Talk.”

The event, held Oct. 31 in Hawkins Hall, was the first in a series of symposiums co-sponsored by the English and political science departments to encourage students to see the viewpoints from diverse angles.

Questions posed to the panelists included what is defined as just in their church, their stance on the LGBTQ community, what diversity looks like in their church, their stance on immigration and refugees, and what they are doing to promote diversity.

Rabbi Scott Looper of Temple Beth Or in Montgomery, a panelist at the event, represented his reformed Jewish congregation.

“What I hope that students take away is this greater sense of diversity, that there is something beyond their own known world and that I guess faith can speak to those issues, but faith does not need to define those issues,” Looper said.

The panelists explained their beliefs on different topics to the audience and gave answers to questions asked based on their religious beliefs.

Associate Mikal Sabree from the Muslim Center in Montgomery said he wanted students to see the diversity around them in life.

“I would like for students to get the fact that there are differences among people, even those that identify with the same faith, so it’s important for us to respect those differences and realize that God has instilled diversity in us, and he wants us to be different,” Sabree said. “He doesn’t expect everybody to be the same.”

After concluding the event, Richard Ledet, associate chair of the political science department and an organizer of the event, invited students to attend more of the symposiums to follow.

“A major theme that I picked up on … was that we can use our theological persuasions to either divide or unite us,” Ledet said. “There are many commonalities across the major faith traditions that could be used to promote civic virtues rather than animosity, hate and mistrust for others. 

“At the end of the day, it is up to the individual to decide how their faith applies in public.”

Katelyn Smith, a senior English major from Andalusia, said the event was interesting, and she enjoyed hearing from members of different religions.

“I learned that it’s important to respect all of the questions that are asked, even if you do not agree with the person who is asking them,” Smith said.

This symposium will be followed on Nov. 28 with an academic response on the issues of diversity, community and justice.

Sydney Dodd, a freshman nursing major from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, said she was hesitant about attending the event but believed this was a way to open students’ eyes to differences around them.

“I went in hesitant since this was the first symposium of the series, but after listening, I’m glad I went,” Dodd said. “I would definitely encourage people to attend the next symposium of the series that’s coming up soon.”

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