Religious harmony advocate group visits from Canada
The Canadian organization Promoting Moderate Voices visited campus Friday morning. The group, whose aim is to promote religious harmony between sects, met with the UVU Interfaith Student Association (ISA) to discuss efforts at such harmony in Utah Valley.
Moderate Voices arrived at the library at 11 o’clock on Jan. 28, and after meeting members of the ISA, the meeting was underway. The council is made up of Muslim and Christian leaders from different parts of Canada who have tried to promote connections between religious groups. They are in the middle of a tour that will pass through Los Angeles and Utah Valley (both UVU and BYU), as well as various locations throughout the Midwest.
Of primary interest in the meeting was the proposition to build a Muslim mosque in Orem. Noorah Islam, president of the Muslim Student Association and a member of the ISA, explained to the council that there has been both support and resistance from the community.
Linda Walton, director of the ISA, further explained to the council that the resistance comes from community members who are afraid of the controversy and even possible violence that could surround such a building.
“However, the Orem city council is supportive,” she said. “And so has the LDS church.” She is optimistic that the building will be approved.
Walton also explained the ISA’s motto, “Tolerance to Love.”
“We want to move from tolerance to love. You tolerate vegetables that your mother makes you eat. That’s not good enough. We can’t just ‘tolerate’ other people.”
She said that she believes that despite religious differences, harmony is possible. She told the story of when the Dalai Lama visited campus. When? According to Walton, there were students who wanted to demonstrate in opposition to the Dalai Lama. Others showed up in support. Each group had made signs advocating their position.
“Then something interesting happened,” she said. “It started to rain. And I saw people with different signs from different sides under the same umbrella. That is what we want.”
After discussing some of these issues, the meeting was spontaneously cut short so that the members of Promoting Moderate Voices could attend a Friday sermon, a Muslim religious observance, with a group of Muslims who rent a space in University Mall for such purposes.
As Dr. Anthony Mansour, a Christian member of the council, explained, this was an important part of his group’s purpose.
“We want to get out in the communities and show people how we can get together and enjoy each others’ devotion.”
In a separate interview, Walton and Michael Freeman, the director of the library and the official faculty advisor for the ISA, elaborated on the ISA’s goals.
“It’s human nature for people to always be within our group, separated, just staring at the other group,” said Freeman. “Interfaith is pointedly not proselytizing. It’s educational, and a good time to get together and talk.”
Walton pointed out that in today’s global society, we can’t just “stay in our own little village and be friends with only our village because everyone is the same.” She said we needed to remember the suffering that many of Utah Valley’s founder suffered because of negative perceptions caused by ignorance.
“So what breaks down those perceptions?” asked Freeman. “Education.”
The ISA is currently trying to acquire space on campus that will be open to those who wish to pray, meditate, or show religious observance in any way. The space would be open to members of any religion.