Religious leaders host discussion, show solidarity
The panel included representatives from five faiths: Rabbi Danielle Leshaw, director of Hillel at OU; Omar Kurdi, communication chair of the Muslim Student Association; Rob Martin, reverend at First Presbyterian Church; Tiffanie Shanks, director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries at First United Methodist Church; and Stephen Kropf, assistant director of the Athens KTC Tibetan Buddhist Meditation Center.
Allison Schoeppner, campus organizer of the Better Together campaign at OU, said having these leaders in a room together while discussing a topic such as violence helps relieve the preconception of division between religions.
“(This) is not an image of faith that we see a lot in the media in our society,” said Schoeppner, a junior studying international studies and war and peace. “It shows solidarity, the fact that there are similarities between religions; it shows that there are issues that we can find commonality on and work together on to help end.”
Evan Young, moderator for the panel, which hosted about 15 attendees, said the event fostered a type of discussion necessary for bridging gaps among religions.
“It’s a challenge sometimes to have a panel where people don’t speak in the abstract, where they don’t talk about big ideas and grand philosophies but instead speak from a place of personal experience and their own struggles,” added Young, minister at United Campus Ministries and the Universalist Fellowship of Athens. “That was one of the aims of the panel, and I think we got there.”
The panel focused on a variety of aspects on the topic of violence as interpreted by different faiths. The conversation began with Young asking questions to participants and then opened up to audience participation. Discussion ranged from recent events like the verdict of the highly publicized Steubenville rape case to the fundamental causes of violence.
“Faith should be the place where people find answers,” Shanks said. “(It should be) where they can find comfort, and where they find peace. All faith traditions (should) take time to address these kinds of questions.”