Morristown, N.J. (April 4, 2019) – Is it possible to fundamentally disagree with another person’s core beliefs and still maintain a close friendship? Are these differences in perceptions of social issues and religious ideologies innately divisive? These complex questions were the cornerstone of the thought-provoking panel discussion, “Divine Mercy in Times of Division.”
Hosted by the College of Saint Elizabeth’s theology department in conjunction with CSE’s social work program, this event featured guest lecturers from four different faith traditions: Judaism, Catholicism, Islam and Christianity. Each spoke about how their specific religious beliefs enabled them to foster a sense of community among all people.
“One of the most relevant ideas that Judaism has to teach this world is that it values staying in relationship with those with whom you disagree,” said Rabbi Robert Scheinberg. “God approves of any healthy conflict that is for the sake of Heaven.”
According to Rabbi Scheinberg, as long as both parties are willing to deeply listen, reflect on their own belief systems and focus on uncovering the truth instead of perpetuating their personal agenda, then growth can occur.
Reverend Carlye Hughes, an Episcopal bishop, expanded upon this sentiment by encouraging audience members to seek regular exposure to diverse groups of people.
“It’s easy to have love for those who are in our tribe, but if we’re not around different people we don’t get to flex that muscle of love for the people who aren’t,” explained Reverend Hughes. “We must push ourselves to do that work and see the beauty of God’s creation in another person.”
Too often, forging this sense of community is thwarted by fear and lack of knowledge. Progress can even occasionally be greeted with violence. Aisha Linda Kaplan, a Muslim woman and Chaplain Resident at Morristown Medical Center, commented on the need for ceaseless unity in these circumstances.
“We suffer from social diseases of ignorance which can manifest in public division and hatred for people of different religious traditions,” said Kaplan. “But if we work together then we can make the world a better, more dignified place.”
According to Manuel Cruz, a Roman Catholic bishop in the Archdiocese of Newark, CSE’s stigma-free campus and commitment to radical acceptance is the key to overcoming prejudice.
“I am standing on holy ground,” said Bishop Cruz. “The mission of this College is so simple, it’s inclusive for every single person. Everyone is welcome here.”