Interfaith work builds community

Although I love my Jewish faith, for the past six years I have participated in a group called Exploring Buddhism. I found this “exploring” helped me immensely during the six years my husband has had cancer.

Before moving to State College, I was involved in National Council of Jewish Women and worked with the League of Women Voters and a local group called Church Women United.

We were instrumental in opening a shelter for abused women in our community, and I saw the value of working to improve our community through interfaith work.

Here in Centre County we have a wonderful group of volunteers involved in Interfaith Initiative Centre County. We meet at monthly coffee hours to discuss interfaith topics. IICC has special programs, panel discussions and business meetings.

We also have two picnics each year where all faiths and many internationals come together for food and fun. More importantly, we get to know each other and find how we are all connected and have very much in common.

This type of interaction may be a small step toward world peace.

I always feel so hopeful when I learn about the beliefs of fellow human beings and about how alike we all are.

To quote Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks in “The Illustrated Rumi”:

Not a Christian or Jew or Moslem, Not Hindu, Buddhist, Sufi, or Zen.

Not any Religion or cultural system.

I am not from the east or the west, not out of the ocean or up from the ground,

Not natural or ethereal, not composed of elements at all.

I do not exist, and am not an entity in this world or the next,

did not descend from Adam or Eve or any origin story.

My place is the placeless, a trace of the traceless.

Neither body or soul.

I belong to the beloved, have seen the two worlds as one

and that one call to and know,

first, last, outer, inner, only that breath breathing Human Being.

I love this poem, and I believe IICC is helping to move us toward greater understanding and world peace. We welcome everyone and encourage universal participation.

The following is a prayer from the beloved sixth century Buddhist sage Shantideva that also perfectly expresses this philosophy:

“May I be a guard for those who need protection, a guide for those on the path; a boat, a raft, a bridge for those who wish to cross the flood.

“May I be a lamp in the darkness, a resting place for the weary, a healing medicine for all who are sick, a vase of plenty, a tree of miracles.

“And for the boundless multitudes of living beings may I bring sustenance and awakening, enduring like the earth and sky, until all beings are freed from sorrow, and all are awakened.”