The Braswell World Religions and Global Cultures Center at Campbell University Divinity School sponsored its second annual conference today. Designed to provide a constructive platform for dialogue between different faith cultures, this year’s conference theme is “Peacemaking in a Pluralistic Age.”
“If we only know about our own faith tradition, we know not,” said Caleb O. Oladipo, director of the cultures center this morning in Taylor Hall. “It is not only wrong when we do not touch base with those people who are different from us, it is transgressive.”
Oladipo used a student trip to Cape Town, South Africa, to illustrate the importance of cultural connection when working toward peace. In January, he and a team of Campbell students had a firsthand look at the life and mission of the church in post-apartheid South Africa. They experienced cross-cultural hardship, danced and sang together, learned to ration water and discovered how hospitable, spiritual, frustrating, congested and beautiful another culture could be.
Oladipo was particularly inspired by the forest on Cape Town’s Table Mountain, a botanical paradise with a teeming world of organisms working together peacefully. Many of them have unique symbiotic partnerships with other plants and creatures on the mountain. For Oladipo, this world beneath the trees held an important message for the pursuit of peace in the world.
“Peacemaking is a way of life. It is not a dramatic event and is not acheived by the flight of a bullet, but by the flight of a butterfly. Peace is attained by how we live. Lasting peace is acheived by our becoming intentional peacemakers in the world.”
Over the course of the one-day event, more than 40 attendees worked together during breakout sessions to discuss practical approaches to peacemaking in the modern era. They also heard from a panel of speakers from three faith traditions, which included Imam Mohamed AbuTaleb, Rev. Dorisanne Cooper, Rabbi Eric Solomon and scholars Jack Thatcher, Curtis Freeman and Matthew S. Holland.
The panel answered challenging questions on interfaith connection: What is it that makes it difficult for Christians in the modern era who understand the peace of Christ to be tolerant of others? What teachings from Islam and do you wish every American understood? How can people of Jewish faith work together with others in the midst of anti-Semitic perceptions?
Dean of the Divinity School Andy Wakefield encouraged the conference audience to enter wholeheartedly into dialogue in a spirit of openness.
“Sometimes thinking about interfaith dialogue makes people nervous,” Wakefield said. “We worry if it’s going to be a debate where we each tell each other how wrong we are, or equally disturbing — that the dialogue might simply be that it doesn’t matter. That your faith is fine and my faith is fine. That’s not what we’re after. We want to embrace our own faith and learn from people of other faith traditions, and really truly listening so that we can understand one another’s experiences.”