Interfaith Cooperation is about values, shared values. Religions have fundamentally different truth claims, but they hold in common certain values. I recently participated in an event for our local interfaith organization Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable. A group of young adults got together to pay tribute to an Interfaith hero. We began by each defining interfaith, and then based on that definition, paying tribute to a leader in the field. I am terrific friends with all the folks I shared the stage with that evening, and we fundamentally disagree theologically. Though we disagree about some things, it does not take away our capacity to first be friends, and second, to work toward good together.
What are values? Values are not ethereal. They are tangible and practical ideas causing us to move, act, and serve in different capacities. For example, many hold care for creation in high regard and others hold forgiveness highest in their value systems. I spoke to the value of hospitality. The kind of hospitality I speak of is authentic empathetic hospitality. It is a value our society wrestles with today, and has struggled with historically. Every wave of migration has brought new rounds of exclusionary practices. Each practice, law, hate speech woven together with fear and ignorance. Hospitality requires great effort, and for that reason I chose to pay tribute to Dr. Larycia Hawkins.
I see myself in Dr. Hawkins. She is an academic, and she was working for an Evangelical Christian University. She engages in Interfaith Dialogue while teaching her students to think critically about all they see and hear. I also work in higher education, identify as a non-denominational Christian, and want to teach students about the values found by engaging in Interfaith Cooperation. Dr. Hawkins attempted to demonstrate hospitality to Muslims. She did so as a Christian reaching out to a marginalized population.
Dr. Hawkins demonstrated hospitality in three ways. First, she wore a hijab. She took the opportunity to walk a mile in another person’s shoes. She had the opportunity to feel the glares, and hear the hate speech spat at women wearing a headscarf on a regular basis. The headscarf coincidentally represents another value, modesty. Modesty has been demonstrated by wearing a headscarf by folks across religious lines for numerous years. Dr. Hawkins also demonstrated learning about Islam. She referenced a phrase used throughout the Islamic scripture, “people of the book.” By using this phrase Dr. Hawkins exhibited an effort to learn more about a religion other than her own. She understood the reference, and used it correctly to identify common bonds. Finally, Dr. Hawkins did something essential to interfaith work. She identified why her actions were motivated by her own faith. She sought a religious authority by referencing a quote from Pope Francis from a few months ago. The Pope is quoted as saying “Jesus Christ, Jehovah, Allah. These are all names employed to describe an entity that is distinctly the same across the world. For centuries, blood has been needlessly shed because of the desire to segregate our faiths.”
Though Dr. Hawkins chose to quote Pope Francis, she could very well have also quoted Jesus. In Luke chapter ten, Jesus describes a man who is robbed, beaten and left for dead. Many pass the beaten man but are afraid to go near, but a person of a different ethnicity and faith stopped to help the man. He binds his wounds and helps care for the beaten man. Jesus asked: who was the neighbor? It is the person who may not have anything else in common, but a sense that this person is my neighbor, and I am responsible for him. Dr. Hawkins lost her job for her values manifest as actions, but continues to work toward being a hospitable neighbor. She demonstrated the value of hospitality, and is therefore worthy of an Interfaith Tribute.
Image:By Gouwenaar (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons