By Hana Ashchi
On October 24th, we hosted our Better Together Text Study with the topic of Creation for the evening. The basis of this text study is to shape a dialogue around the exploration of sacred texts and listen to what everyone has to say about the chosen topic. The facilitators of the event were UNF alumna Sama Beg, UNF Interfaith Center Coordinator Rachael McNeal and UNF Interfaith Center Director Tarah Trueblood. Sama, a devout Muslim and a passionate supporter of interfaith dialogue represented the Muslim Sacred text, as she did last Text Study. Rachael and Tarah represented the Jewish and Christian scriptures respectively.
The event started off, just like any other event we host, with Safe Space guidelines. As everyone announced their religious/non-religious identity during the check-in, I noticed that were more students than last time and we even had a student come for class credit! To have people come in and be so intrigued and excited to learn made me realize that, slowly but surely, we are working together as one and not as separate beings and groups.
Sama started off the first portion with reading the Holy Scriptures from the Quran. Since we were focusing on Creation this month, Sama read about The First Creation, Descent from Heaven, and Procreation. It was very insightful to learn that there was a lot of writing that included the science of biology. Breaking down how a human was born and talking about how man was created from clay (from the Earth) was quite interesting since reading about science in a religious text was not very common.
Next, Rachael went on and discussed the Jewish scriptures and what the Tanakh had said. Genesis 1: 1-5 was our focus and the dialogue was facilitated around how God created the world in seven days. What everyone was wondering was how was Day and Night understood? Or could it possibly refer to good and evil? There were many questions around the idea of a Heaven and Hell and if we all went to Heaven at some time in our after life. This portion sparked a lot of interesting ideas that had the students pondering into the next portion with Tarah.
Tarah started off her portion with bringing out four different magazines with President Obama on each magazine. This related to the discussion in breaking down the four gospels, Matthew, Luke, John and Mark. It was quite interesting to see how these Christian Gospels related to these specific magazines and their audiences who read them. Tarah spoke specifically about John and “at first there was the logos, and the logos was with God, and the logos was God.” Breaking this down, we all discussed the definition of logos, what it meant, and how it was related to creation. This was something we had to understand within the Christian writings and they must accept that “everything was created through him…”
The interesting aspect of this whole text study was learning the different points of view about what the various scriptures had said about Creation, and how, in a way, were all some what related to each other.
I think by hosting Better Together Text Studies, we are capable of spreading religious pluralism and understand the world we live in just a little bit more than before. To gain knowledge, eliminate the tension and to overall gain a better understanding of the people around me, I am looking forward to the upcoming Better Together Text Study on November 21, 2013 with Sama Beg, Rachael McNeal and Tarah Trueblood.