A panel of three clergymen spoke openly about their own spiritual questions and beliefs, the misconceptions about their faiths and the trends they see in the decade ahead for their religions.
The forum sponsored by the All Voices Family Alliance on February 7 drew about two dozen people to the Faulkner Library for the panel with leaders from the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths. Middle School Teacher Diana Gru served as moderator.
The conversation opened with a rabbi speaking about the imperative of social justice and closed with a Christian minister’s thoughts on the power of love. In between arose comments about protecting the tradition of prophetic voices from the pulpit and queries about “What Would Jesus Do?” and “What Would Muhammad Do?”
The tumult in the country over President Trump’s executive order banning travel by people from seven Muslim-majority countries was the backdrop to the night’s conversation.
The Rev. Keith Hodges, an associate minister at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Spring House said although he was initially devastated, he could see some good coming as a result of the president’s order.
“What I’m encouraged about is the protest, the resistance that has brought us together. We’re awake now. On both sides. There’s some good that will come out of this bad,” he said.
Rabbi Kevin Kleinman, education director at Main Line Reform Temple, noted the arrest on February 6 of 19 rabbis who took part in a sit-in outside the the Trump International Hotel in New York City, and agreed that “we can no longer be complacent.”
“We understand what it’s like to be immigrants,” he said. “We understand what it’s like to be strangers.”
Malik Mubashshir, an imam at the Muslim Community Masjid Association in West Philadelphia, said misconceptions about his religion were based, in part, on people not knowing each other. “How many Muslims do you know?” he asked.
He said he practiced a faith that “found no incompatibility between being a Muslim and being an American.”
Looking ahead, Malik said he saw Islam in America taking on its own indigenous form, just as it has become indigenous in other countries where it is practiced.
Kevin said the rapid decline in synagogue membership was a major challenge facing the Jewish faith, and thought the answer was in keeping the religion relevant in people’s lives.
Keith talked about steps Christians can take, and offered this as a place to begin: “Love — if you start there, you end up well.”