I am writing this note in appreciation of your efforts. Indeed, I am compiling all the good, bad and ugly stories with similar examples – and I must say that the good always wins at the end, as long as we follow the Prophet’s model: Mitigating conflicts and nurturing goodwill. As people of faith we should not cause each other to dig in our positions.
My experiment has been fairly successful, for two years I have been writing a weekly column as the President of Foundation for Pluralism at Dallas Morning News and at Huffington post and other periodicals. It has done a few things – pointing the good in all other faiths including Islam – people accept that because they see it as reflection of goodness in all. Insha Allah, the website will list all the 300+ articles I have written on Pluralism. Even the Tributes I have written honoring my late wife, or tribute to my father and mother on Father's day, and Mother's day… and almost every festival from Baha’i to Zoroastrians and every one in between incorporate that element – resulting in getting people off digging in their heels and focus on creating common good.
A few days before the event took place - we received word that the already controversial subject matter had just added a new wrinkle - an infamous local pseudo scholar named Carl Goldberg would be attending the event with the hopes of stirring up the crowd and turning the dialog into the debate. This just added to my hesitance, but I knew I would have to pull through.
More importantly, we all reached the conclusion that while interfaith events are great and have their place - the more important work will be "hands-on" and educating our communities on a grassroots level. As many activists and clergy who have participated in interfaith events have said before, we shouldn't be trained to just "tolerate" each other. Its time to transcend those lines and advance the conversation past the uncomfortable smiles, selective hearing and back to business as usual after the event is over. Thankfully with the relationships we forged on this day, there is definitely hope for a greater and more meaningful level of participation in the future. And while the detractors attempted to steer this event off the tracks, they actually helped strengthen the bond between faith leaders, and ensure that we will work together to defeat the forces of hate and intolerance.