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Interfaith Conference at Sacred Heart University

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On Wednesday, February 11,2015, Peace Islands Institution held its second Interfaith Conference at Sacred Heart University. This event was sponsored by Sacred Heart University, The Fountain Magazine, and Peace Islands Institute. The title of the conference was “When Beauty Whispers to the Heart”. The discussed had two session the first being ‘Unity and Peace Through Music’. Our distinguished panelists for the first session were Dr. June-Anne Greeley, Rabbi Suri Krieger, and Mr. Yusuf Ziya Gurtas.

Rabbi Suri Krieger started the discussion by saying, “The essence of prayer is the essence of music”. She continued mentioning in the earliest Genesis came the origins of musical instruments. Rabbi demonstrated music in the Jewish religion by singing a prayer that is sung before bed to receive the Angels’ blessing. The pray was…

On my right- Michael
On my left is Gabriel
Guiding me Uriel
And behind me is Raphael
All around Shalvat Shalom

Rabbi Suri Krieger concluded by quoting Kayla Mueller, “Peace is not something you wish for, it’s something you make, its something you do, it’s something you are and, it’s something you give away”.

Dr. June –Anne Greeley continues with the Christian perspective and says, “ We find the One is songs and prayers”. Music is a way to express love for God. She also adds music bring people together and with singing everything is possible. Dr. Greeley mentioned the importance of chanting. Chanting emphasizes on one word, which gives the opportunity to live the word. She quotes St. Augustine, “Those who sing pray twice”. Dr. Greeley says, singing should not be entertainment, but only a way to connect to God.

Mr. Yusuf Ziya Gurtas added the Islamic perspective listing possible ways music is in Islam. Mr. Gurtas mentioned reciting the Quran, zikr (remembrance), and praising the Prophet were ways music could be used when worshipping Allah. Mr. Gurtas mentioned Sufism dervish which are people known to whirl in He concluded his discussion by showing and contemporary musical worship. It was a video by Sami Yusuf the song was praising Allah and the Prophet.

The second session was on Unity and Dialogue through Literature, and our distinguished panelists were Professor Marie Hulme, Rabbi Marcelo Kormis, and Mr. Hakan Yesilova.

Mr. Hakan Yesilova started by saying everything started because of love. God created Adam and Eve because of love. Also, that humans should love each other because of their love for God,and humans should love the universe and everything that surrounds them because all of those are signs of the Beauty of God. Everything around us is like a letter of the Universal Book which gets us closer to the pure love of God. Because God has not only spoken to humankind through prophets and holy books, but also through nature and everything He has created. This allows us to fulfill the thought of loving the created because of the Creator.

Mr. Yesilova added an example of the Gulen Movement. A movement which is running all round for the need of people; opening schools in more than 104 countries now, opening hospitals and other charity activities because of their love for humankind. Mr. Yesilova concluded with an important point of Gulen Movement is global tolerance among different nations, races, ranks, and religions. He said that for Muslims the symbol of pilgrimage is Kaaba in Mecca, but in fact God is in the heart of mankind’s. Everyone can find God in their hearts by the means of love.

Rabbi Kormis starts the panel with a great sentence, it is impossible to have a dialogue without love and impossible to have love without dialogue. Then continued saying Jews are ordered to love; love the neighbor, love your stranger, love your God. God sent these orders because in a verse it says, He is the God and he loves us, therefore he teaches us how to love too’
Rabbi Kornis said that loving the neighbor was important, but it is more important to show it by trying to help satisfy their needs. He said that love is only real and pure love when people put it in action.

Professor Marie Hulme took a different standpoint to the topic. She gave examples through three very famous books, Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri, Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, and Beloved by Toni Morrison. Professor Hulme mentioned the Christian view was no different than the Jewish and Islamic view of love. She emphasized on the love of God. Professor Hulme concluded by saying you need to love in order to be-loved by the Creator.

The moderator Fr. Anthony Ciorra ended the night by saying, take the beauty of what you heard and whisper it to your heart.

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