Interfaith conference at BYU Hawaii

Tracing the Shared Lineage: An Interfaith Dialogue at BYU-Hawaii

May 09, 20244 min read

"God is omnipresent, and we can't explain or know some characteristics, but if God is omnipresent, he must be in every cell of our body. And it makes us totally connected."

Tracing the Shared Lineage: An Interfaith Dialogue at BYU-Hawaii

In June of 2023, our founder, Naomi Pedersen, collaborated with the David O. McKay Center for Intercultural Understanding at BYU-Hawaii to host an impactful interfaith conference. This gathering aimed to facilitate a profound exploration of the connections and commonalities shared among the Abrahamic religions of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity.

The conference was rooted in the recognition that while these faiths have evolved and diversified over the centuries, their fundamental origins can be traced back to the patriarch Abraham. Pedersen saw this as a unique opportunity to foster meaningful dialogue and mutual understanding among adherents of these Abrahamic traditions.

Interfaith Speakers

The conference proceedings commenced with acknowledging the historical Hawaiian lands on which BYU-Hawaii is built and a Hawaiian pule (prayer) and oli (chant) giving participants a moment to appreciate and honor the sacred space that they were gathered in. 

The day-long event featured an impressive lineup of speakers, each offering unique insights into the shared lineage of the Abrahamic faiths. Panelist Roger Epstein, a prominent theologian, eloquently articulated the interconnectedness of the divine, stating, "God is omnipresent, and we can't explain or know some characteristics, but if God is omnipresent, he must be in every cell of our body. And it makes us totally connected."

Russell R. Watanabe, representing The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, shared a poignant prayer for peace, emphasizing the importance of walking "with my brother in perfect harmony." These powerful statements highlighted the common values and beliefs that transcend the boundaries of individual religious traditions.

The conference attendees, comprising students, colleagues, and broader community members, engaged in rich discussions. They were visibly moved by the revelations of the shared foundations underlying their faiths. Many expressed a newfound appreciation for the deep-rooted connections that bind the Abrahamic religions together.

The Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all trace their origins back to the patriarch Abraham, making them inherently connected through their shared lineage and foundational beliefs. Recognizing this deep-rooted commonality is an important first step in building bridges of understanding and cooperation among these traditions.

However, the intertwined history of the Abrahamic faiths has also been marked by periods of conflict, oppression, and mutual misunderstanding. From the Crusades to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, there is a long and complex legacy of violence, intolerance, and power struggles that have divided these religious communities. Acknowledging this difficult past and the harms and injustices committed by all sides is crucial for fostering genuine reconciliation.

Student Listening

By confronting this shared history, both the positive and negative aspects, we can gain a more nuanced and empathetic perspective on the challenges and perspectives of the various Abrahamic traditions. This deeper understanding can help dismantle stereotypes, break down walls of mistrust, and create space for meaningful dialogue and collaboration.

Looking to the future, several crucial steps can be taken to cultivate lasting positive change:

  • Interfaith Dialogue and Cooperation: Facilitating regular interfaith dialogues, conferences, and collaborative initiatives that bring together religious leaders, scholars, and community members from the Abrahamic faiths. This can foster mutual understanding, shared problem-solving, and joint action on issues of common concern.

  • Education and Awareness-Raising: Incorporating the study of Abrahamic religions and their shared histories into educational curriculums, media, and public discourse. This can help ensure that younger generations grow up with a more comprehensive and balanced understanding of these faiths.

  • Policy and Legal Reforms: Advocating for policy and legal changes that protect the rights and freedoms of all Abrahamic faith communities, ensuring equal treatment and access to resources. This can help create a more just and inclusive societal framework.

  • Grassroots Peacebuilding: Supporting local, community-driven initiatives that bring together Abrahamic faith communities for shared activities, service projects, and cultural exchanges. This can help build personal connections and break down barriers at the grassroots level.

  • Interfaith Leadership Development: Investing in the training and empowerment of interfaith leaders who can serve as bridge-builders, mediators, and champions for Abrahamic cooperation and harmony.

By embracing this multifaceted approach, rooted in a deep understanding of our shared Abrahamic heritage and a commitment to addressing the complexities of our collective history, we can take meaningful steps toward creating a more just, peaceful, and inclusive future for all.

Beyond the immediate impact on the participants, this interfaith dialogue has the potential to inspire lasting change. By fostering a greater understanding of the shared lineage and values of the Abrahamic faiths, the conference has laid the groundwork for ongoing collaboration, interfaith cooperation, and promoting peace and harmony within the local and global community.

Pono Pono Peace Initiative thanks all the people and organizations who helped make this event possible. If you would like to be involved in our ongoing work in the Interfaith community or have future projects you would like to collaborate on with the Pono Pono Peace Initiative, please reach out. 

Interfaith Group

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