“Religion is a topic not typically discussed in today’s society,” said junior Jen Detchon. “I think that causes a lot of misunderstanding and conflict.”
It was this idea that inspired Detchon and several other students, with support from Campus Ministry, to start “Peace Talks,” a regular event at which members of the Mercyhurst community can share their individual spiritual and/or religious lives.
Detchon said she hopes these talks “will show the similarities that most faiths share, such as love and good moral values.”
These meetings are meant to be a place where students, faculty and staff can find common ground in regard to religion and not feel as though they have to debate or defend themselves.
The goal of these gatherings is to facilitate discussion and open dialogue about various religions. Through discussion, students can expect to increase their awareness of other religions by talking with those who practice different spiritual or religious beliefs.
The first of these events took place Sunday, Nov. 4, at 7 p.m. and featured Arabic instructor and Fulbright Scholar Habib Ben Messaoud, who discussed the basics of Islam and being a Muslim in America.
Messaoud gave an overview of the Islamic faith and also discussed similarities between Islam and Christianity; Islam and its tolerance of other religions and gender equality in Islam.
He made note of several examples of similarities between the Bible and the Qur’an, and how “the two books call for the same thing.” He also cited evidence in the Qur’an stating Islamic tolerance for other religions and the equality of men and women.
Messaoud talked about his first experience with meeting and working with Americans in his native country of Tunisia. After getting to know Americans, he said he was surprised how many things they had in common and “how many values they shared, such as a love of freedom and a respect for human rights.”
This first gathering of “Peace Talks” succeeded in facilitating discussion on the similarities between Islam and other religions, specifically Christianity and Judaism. Many in attendance were able to increase their understanding of Islam by having their questions answered by Messaoud.
“Peace Talks” are expected to be held the first Sunday of each month. So far, the next meeting is not limited to any specific topic. Any member of the student body, faculty or staff interested in sharing their personal spiritual/religious views at a future gathering is encouraged to contact Jen Detchon at firstname.lastname@example.org.