by Kaitlin Milligan
Assistant Magazine Editor
The Niagara Foundation hosted its Annual Dinner of Abrahamic Traditions on March 21 on the campus of Rochester College with the purpose of strengthening friendship and understanding among three Abrahamic Traditions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
More than 40 people attended the evening to partake in a meal, a time of fellowship, and to hear from a speaker from each of the three traditions. The speakers for the evening included Rabbi Robert Dobrusin; Beth Israel Congregation, Ann Arbor; Dr. Robert Cornwall, senior pastor, Central Woodward Christian Church and Dr. Imam Achmat Salie, Islamic Studies program developer at the University of Detroit Mercy,
The evening was opened by Dr. Brian Stogner, president of RC,. He began the evening by discussing the importance of a shared meal. “When people come together over a meal, it builds trust. Coming together to build trust and relationships has never been more important,” Stogner said.
The Topics of Discussion
The theme of the evening’s discussion was “Human Rights According to the Abrahamic Faith Traditions.” All speakers were given four questions as prompts:
What are the varying codes of human rights in your faith traditions and how do these overlap or contradict human rights in a secular context?
How can we understand how human dignity is defined in a your faith tradition and how is it similar to or different than a secular understanding?
What is the relationship between justice and human rights?
What does your tradition preach about women’s rights, children’s rights?
Dr. Carol Cooper, chair of the Department of Mass Communication, moderated the event.
“Despite a variety of interpretations among different groups within each religion, what is shared by all three religions of the Abrahamic tradition are at least two common threads: One, the acknowledgment of the sacredness of human life, and two the right to a life with dignity, which includes basic food, shelter, clothing and safety. All three traditions mention the obligation to actively seek ways to make these tenets a reality for everyone,” Cooper said
Cooper has a commitment to interfaith dialogue, having taught world religions and produced educational videos about world religions for eight years in London as well as acted on a standing advisory committee for religious education that advised the United Kingdom government about school religious education curriculum.
The Opinions of the Students
This event was open to students and allowed them to see the commonalities within the Abrahamic traditions.
“We all have a desire to see good prevail in the world and we all are driven with a desire to see justice met in our world. I also was reminded that no one people group has it all right. We all have our mistakes and shortcomings,” said Cole Swenson, junior youth and family ministry major.
Students also learned of the faiths through personal interactions.
“I think my favorite part of the event was being able to talk to people that have grown up in different cultures and hearing their stories,” said Jessica Diehl, junior interdisciplinary studies major.
To find out more about the Niagara Foundation and its annual Abrahamic Dinner, go to the Niagara Foundation.