Ambassadors for Peace Richmond, Virginia
Interfaith Council of Greater Richmond (ICGR)
"The Future of Interfaith" by Bishop Walter Sullivan, Catholic Diocese, Richmond
May 18th, 2011
Creating One Family Under God
Two thumbs up for Catholic Bishop, emeritus, Walter Sullivan. He was well received as the keynote speaker by the participants of the ICGR Clergy Breakfast, May 18th, at the Roslyn Retreat Center of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia. The audience was truly interfaith with Catholics, Baptists, Seventh Day Adventists, Unitarians, Unity, Muslims, Jews, Baha'is, Unificationists, Eckankars, professors from Virginia Commonwealth University's (VCU) World Studies and Sociology Departments, and many others.
The program was emceed by Ms. Sandy Willis, president of ICGR; and Mr. Malik Khan, vice president, introduced Bishop Sullivan. Appreciating the deep heart and spirituality of Mr. Khan, the Bishop said, to the delight of the audience: "If you do not get to Heaven, I'm not gonna get there."
Bishop Sullivan certainly did not disappoint, he will be remembered by his prominent line: "One thing I really hate is the use of the word 'tolerance' in the interfaith effort...." he said. "Let's use the words, 'respect and love' ...." "Tolerance," he said, "implies that I am barely putting up with you. Let's get rid of this!"
All seemed to be in agreement with his optimistic view on the future that awaits the interfaith movement. In his speech, he touched briefly on the history of the interfaith effort in the Richmond area starting in the 60's. He said it began with simple "dialogue with the Jewish Community when little was known of each other. It was not a call to waterdown our faith, but to recognize the validity of others and to respect each other."
He showed that cultural differences had a lot to do with erecting walls between the various religions, even within own denominations. He cited the example of the Catholic Church with its many ethnic groups. "There must be an openess to learn - we must avoid the ghettos of our minds," he explained. Acentuating the positive, he appealed to the workings of God in everyone and the attituide of heart that we must embrace in "recognizing the good and God in each other."
He praised the Interfaith Movement for helping us to realize our common humanity, diversity, and the deep spirituality of others. "We are on a journey together and we share a common destiny as God's people." he concluded. Afterwards, Ms. Willis presented the Bishop with a crystal plaque (2nd row, right photo) in appreciation of his great contribution to the development of the interfaith work.
A copy of UPF founder's autobiography: "As a Peace-Loving Global Citizen" and UPF International reports from around the world on the "UN World Interfaith Harmony Week 2011" (featuring participants of UPF-Richmond in the USA section) was presented to him. Many other leaders were also able to receive copies of said UPF International reports. The spirit of networking among those present was very much alive. There was a strong sense of shared responsibility for the mission of the worlds' religion to advance world peace. It's in these type of settings that often we were able to come close to the vision of UPF founder's idea that we are truly "One Family under God."
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