“Religion must catapult us into the discomfort of becoming our better selves.”
So spoke Rev. Dr. Gwynne Guibord in her keynote address that opened an interfaith dialogue held in the Joanie Martin Community Room on Nov. 13. The second in Crossroads School’s recently established Younes and Soraya Nazarian Equity & Justice Distinguished Lecture Series, the event was presented by the Crossroads School Equity & Justice Institute in partnership with The Guibord Center.
Following the rousing keynote speech, in which Rev. Dr. Guibord described how the devotion of Muslims and Jews elevates her own relationship with Christianity, a diverse group of interfaith leaders took the stage for a talk moderated by Derric J. Johnson, founding director of the Equity & Justice Institute.
To a rapt audience, the panelists spoke on a number of issues, including the separation of church and state, spirituality versus religion and how misconceptions can lead to persecution. Mustafa Zeno, a Muslim-American who teaches at an Orthodox Jewish high school, shared how students sometimes jokingly shout to him in the hallways “Allahu akbar”—the Arabic phrase for “God is great.” While Zeno chooses to take their mimicry in stride, he is also heartened to see other classmates stand up to those students, explaining the context of the phrase and sometimes correcting mispronunciations.
After the panel discussion, audience members asked questions on topics including the evolution of spiritual texts over the centuries and how to explain religious discrimination to children, harkening back to Rev. Dr. Guibord’s opening remarks.
“We live in dangerous times,” she acknowledged, calling interfaith dialogue essential “if only for the sake of our mutual safety and survival.”
- Rev. Edward Anderson, M.Div, M.A., senior pastor of McCarty Memorial Christian Church; and California co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign.
- Rabbi Joel Thal Simonds, founder of The Jewish Center for Justice; and West Coast legislative director for the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.
- Tasneem Noor, program co-director of NewGround: A Muslim-Jewish Partnership for Change; and interfaith minister in residence for the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles.
- Dr. Sable Manson, assistant director for student leadership and development at University of Southern California’s Joint Educational Project; and interfaith minister in residence for the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles.
- Mustafa Zeno, an LA-based Muslim-American filmmaker-photographer; co-producer of the PBS documentary “Dalya’s Other Country”; and teacher of Arabic and film at YULA, an Orthodox Jewish high school.
- Eliana Kaya, a veteran journalist, community organizer, media consultant and interfaith activist.
The Younes and Soraya Nazarian Equity & Justice Distinguished Lecture Series was established to help stimulate dialogue among students, educators and community leaders committed to tackling the problems of racism, poverty, war, environmental degradation, educational inequities, religious persecution, genocide and other forms of injustice. The lecture series is an initiative of Y&S Nazarian Family Foundation, which supports educational causes in a broad spectrum of institutions and through a wide variety of avenues: academic, public policy, community-based, social and artistic programs in the United States and Israel.