As history across the ages records, it is not so easy to work together.
Ironically, religions often offer guides to peace, concern for others and reconciliation, yet many of our most intense wars have been fought between supporters of separate religions.
Hindi versus Muslims, Catholics versus Protestants, Sunni Muslims versus Shiaa Muslims, Christians versus Jews and Muslims, and on and on.
Here in Venice we are fortunate that people of good will have organized efforts to bring people of varying religions together to foster understanding and friendship.
Epiphany Cathedral has for a number of years had a religious and education program offered jointly with the Venice Jewish Center to remember the Holocaust and to teach young people about its horrors.
Many people concerned about the continuous wars that have plagued our world have supported efforts to strengthen international understanding and good will, often feeling frustrated when their efforts seemed fruitless. Are there things, even small things, we can do in our own lives here in Venice, to create a more understanding and loving community?
A group of people with a wish to promote friendship, understanding and, in the biblical sense, “peace, goodwill toward men,” organized the Venice Interfaith Community Association about three years ago. This organization is growing steadily, with individual and institutional memberships.
The group has dedicated itself to helping us understand each other’s religions and also to working together to help others. One example is financial and volunteer support for a program offered by the Senior Friendship Centers to bring personal contact to older citizens living alone.
Comparative religion programs
VICA has begun a series of seven free lectures and discussions, held at the Frances T. Bourne Jacaranda Public Library at 7 p.m. The series is called, “Can’t We All Just Work Together,” and the first lecture, Jan. 8, was given by the Rev. Abhi Prakash Janamanchi of the
International Association of Religious Freedom.
Prakash was greeted by an overflow crowd and did not disappoint, as he raised thought-provoking comments about the strengths and potential weaknesses of interfaith meetings. The international group he now heads has more than 100 years’ experience in such gatherings.
He discussed the potential for participants to use the meetings to proselytize and to fail to distinguish between positive and negative aspects of how religions are practiced. His call to the audience was to grant each individual freedom to worship; seek to distinguish the moral strengths of various views; and practice listening as well as speaking in interfaith groups.
The upcoming schedule is:
Jan. 22 — The Rev. Dr. True Dharma Frank Tedesco, who represents the Buddhist Fellowship of Tampa Bay.
Jan. 29 — Rev. Don Wilson, United Church of Christ, Venice
Feb. 5 — Rabbi Ann White, Jewish Center of Venice.
Feb. 12 — Samar Jarrah, author of “Arab Voices Speak to American Hearts.”
Feb. 26 — The Most Rev. Frank J. Dewane, bishop, the Diocese of Venice.
March 5 — A summary session with previous speakers invited to participate.