Interfaith discussion aims to build bridges

Experts in Judaism, Christianity and Islam recently discussed the similarities and differences among their religions during an interfaith panel at UC Irvine.

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Student Assn. hosted Love for God and for Creation on Oct. 10 to bring together different faiths in an effort to educate the community and further social and spiritual peace, said Minaal Malik, a senior at UCI and member of the association.

UCI has seen its share of religious controversy, none of which was present at the event, which was attended by about 50 people.

In 2010, 11 Muslim students from UCI and UC Riverside were charged with conspiring to disrupt and disrupting a speech by then-Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren at the university. The incident led to 10 of the students being sentenced in 2011 to three years of informal probation and 56 hours of community service. Charges against the 11th student were dismissed after he agreed to perform 40 hours of community service at Costa Mesa's Someone Cares Soup Kitchen.

Qasim Rashid, an attorney, author and spokesman for the Islamic group Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, spoke about the importance of acknowledging other religions and finding common ground.

"Our differences are not an excuse to divide us," he said. "We can disagree, but at the end of the day we can still break bread together."

One of the key differences, as discussed by the panel, is the way each religion perceives sin. For Christians, sin is a state you are born into, and for Muslims and Jews sin is based on actions.

Andy Wrasman, a teacher of world religions, focused his discussion on how Christians show their love to God and how they repent for their sins through prayer.

"When we look at the trinity, we see that God exists in a divine community of love. God judges man based upon his works," he said. "He is just and he can't let sin go unpunished."

The crowd chuckled as Lee Weissman, a Jewish studies teacher at Tarbut V' Torah Jewish Community Day School in Irvine, offered his own take on the differences among the three faiths.

"Jews got suffering and fear, Christians got love, and Muslims prayer and submission," he said. "It would certainly seem that Christians got the best deal."

Ahsan Khan, a member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, attended the event to learn about the Christian and Jewish faiths.

"I think it's important to not focus on the differences but stress upon the commonalities," he said. "With everything going on, it's a critical time to find commonality in the world."

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