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Upcoming interfaith forum seeks to teach understanding

A Christian, a Jew and a Muslim speaking at a college campus may sound like the setup for a joke, but an upcoming forum in Burbank with members from each of those religions will be no laughing matter.

The Burbank Human Relations Council will host an interfaith forum and dinner called “A Christian, a Jew and a Muslim: In Conversation” from 4 to 7 p.m. on July 29 at Woodbury University.

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The event will feature Rev. Jose Poch from St. David’s Anglican Church, Rabbi John Carrier from Burbank Temple Emanu El and Brother Daniel Amin Colman from the Islamic Society of West Valley and the Burbank Islamic Center.

Though they practice different faiths, each of them said they will be at the forum representing themselves and not their religions.

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“I’m not coming to the event representing Christianity any more than Carrier is representing Judaism or Colman representing Islam,” Poch said. “It’s just three individuals with three different faiths, and we hope that we can show the community that they can talk to their neighbors and co-workers that are different from them.”

All three of the men also have the same goal for the event, which is to try and teach people that everyone can learn and talk to one another without having it lead to violence.

“We want the community to experience what civil dialogue could look like,” Poch said. “We understand that those that are going to be coming to listen to us have people in their own communities that they’re not relating to or talking to.”

Carrier added that given the current political climate in the country, he and his colleagues think it is the right time to teach people in the community how to communicate with one another about their differences in a courteous manner.

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“Our goal is to model civil conversation in public because each of us knows and believes that’s an important skill for everybody in our community to have,” Carrier said.

This project was started several months ago by David Meyerhof, a member of the Burbank Human Relations Council, who thought that it would be a good idea to bring members from different faiths together to talk with one another, Carrier said.

He selected Carrier, Colman and Poch to be the representatives and had them meet one another in state Assemblywoman Laura Friedman’s (D-Glendale) office.

“We didn’t know what we were starting, but we knew it was important,” Carrier said.

To kick things off, the three men simply did what anyone else would do to get to know someone better: grab lunch and have a conversation.

It didn’t take long for each of the men to realize that they had a lot in common and were, as Colman puts it, theological geeks.

“We enjoy discussing theology and our enjoyment of religion,” Colman said. “We love talking about different religious points and how they compare and contrast in our respective faiths. It was like being in a club that enjoys religion and theology.”

As Poch, Colman and Carrier started to learn more about one another, the three thought it was time to take their conversations and open them up to the public to use them as tools to teach others about understanding each other’s differences.

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“It’s really critical to have this conversation,” Colman said. “At the end of the day, we all live together, and it’s crucial that we find ways of having civil discourse.”

A limited number of tickets to the event will be sold. They can be purchased at burbankhumanrelationscouncil.org.

Woodbury University is located at 7500 N. Glenoaks Blvd., Burbank.

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