One of the most popular community programs at the Holocaust Center in the past year was an innovative Religion 101 series hosted in partnership with the Interfaith Council of Central Florida. Throughout the past year, each monthly meeting featured a leader of one of the area’s eight larger faith groups addressing that religion’s origins and basic tenants.
The success of the series led to a decision to offer a “Religion 201” series this year. According to Pastor Jim Coffin, Executive Director of the Interfaith Council, the new series will bring new information and a slightly different approach to dialog about faith groups. “We want people to know that we hope to build on what they’ve learned this past year,” he says, “but they absolutely don’t need to have attended last year’s series in order to get a lot out of this year’s presentations.”
The first of the Religion 201 series was held on September 17 and featured presentations by Ernie Bursey, representing Christianity; Deen Khandelwal, speaking for Hinduism; and Rachel Gardiner, Unitarian Universalism. Each panel member was asked to address the evening’s topic of When – If Ever – Is Taking Human Life Justified?
After each panelist gave a brief overview of their faith’s general perspective of the question, moderator Bryan Fulwider opened up the conversation to questions. What followed was a thoughtful, earnest dialog touching on a variety of sensitive topics.
Because the Holocaust Center is now involved with a series of community programs in remembrance of the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht, it seemed almost inevitable that the discussion would turn to questions about justifications for war. Dr. Bursey explained the broad spectrum of Christian responses, ranging from the anti-war activism of many Catholic leaders to the pro-war resolutions of some, but certainly not all, Protestant denominations. Ms. Gardiner spoke of the Unitarian Universalist commitment to peace, advocating “pursuing all other possible avenues” when military action is considered. Dr. Khandelwal explained that in his faith sometimes the sacrifices of war support a greater good. “It is all right that I die to save my family,” he said. “It is all right that my family may die to save our village, and all right if the village dies to save our country.”
Another topic that generated a great deal of interest was religious perspectives on end of life issues. Although there are prohibitions against suicide and assisted suicide in many religious groups, there seemed to be a consensus among panelists and audience members that compassion had to be included in that moral equation.
There is no charge to attend the Religion 201 programs. There is free parking onsite, and the building is completely handicap accessible.
The full schedule of Religion 201 dates and topics is on this webpage.
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