Abrahamic faiths to break bread together

GVL / Courtsy - Kaufman Interfaith Institute

GVL / Courtsy – Kaufman Interfaith Institute

The Kaufman Interfaith Institute at Grand Valley State University and the Niagara Foundation will sponsor the fourth annual Abrahamic Dinner on Thursday, Oct. 30 as a way to foster interfaith understanding.

Katie Gordon, the program manager at the Kaufman Interfaith Institute, said Christianity, Judaism and Islam share Abraham as an ancestor.

“We wanted to combine the interfaith community into one dinner,” Gordon said. “The event is meant to strengthen friendship and understanding among the three Abrahamic traditions.”

Gordon said the main way the dinner will accomplish this is through interfaith dialogue among individuals at the tables. She added that there will be one speaker from each faith who will help foster discussion of the theme for this year’s dinner.

“The theme is ‘going beyond religious tolerance,’” Gordon said. “In our community, we can go beyond tolerance by inviting new people into the conversation.”

Although the focus is the three Abrahamic traditions, the dinner is open to anyone in the Grand Rapids community, regardless of religion or non-religion. Gordon said interfaith events can have many benefits for all kinds of participants.

“The relationships developed are what last coming out of interfaith events,” she said. “It’s important to know and understand our neighbors.”

Gordon said she hopes GVSU students take advantage of this opportunity, which is free if they register through the Kaufman Interfaith Institute’s website.

“It would be a great opportunity for Grand Valley students to get connected with the broader interfaith community in Grand Rapids,” Gordon said. “This dinner is a nice bridge between campus and the community.”

Filiz Dogru, a GVSU associate professor of mathematics, has been a volunteer with the Niagara Foundation for many years. Dogru said the Niagara Foundation holds this dinner annually in various cities throughout Michigan to, “invite three different religious representatives to talk about something common.”

“The foundation wants to bring different cultures, different religions and different ethnic groups together,” Dogru said. “The dinner is a place where people can share ideas and be respectful of other’s thinking.”

Dogru emphasized the importance of the event for college students, who are “learning the world right now.” She said the dinner can give them a new perspective they might not see every day.

“They can meet other cultures and other religious members and can see their commonality, their humanity,” Dogru said. “All we have to do is listen to each other. Peace and education are the future.”

The Abrahamic Dinner starts at 6:30 p.m. at Park Church, located at 10 East Park Place NE in Grand Rapids. Registration is required.

For more information, visit http://www.gvsu.edu/interfaith.