A rabbi, an imam and a pastor walk into Pacific Lutheran University.
No, this isn’t the beginning of a bad joke. It was the beginning of a presentation by the Interfaith Amigos, three friends of different religious backgrounds who now give inspirational talks on what it means to be interfaith. Imam Jahmal Rahman, Pastor Don Mackenzie and Rabbi Ted Falcon drew an audience of approximately 70 people to the Phillips Center auditorium, including university president Thomas Krise and Bishop Jaech, bishop of the southwestern Washington synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
Senior Lucas Kulhanek, who is a Campus Ministry steward and co-chair of the Interfaith Student Council, got the idea to bring the Interfaith Amigos to PLU after seeing their presentation on a Ted Talk two years ago. When he brought up the idea to university pastor Nancy Connor, he found out that Connor and class of 2013 alum Anna Milliren had previously tried to bring the trio to PLU, but were unable to due to the cost.
“They gave PLU a really good deal this time,” Kulhanek said, saying it cost $1500.
The Amigos made secular references to books such as “The Road Less Traveled” and “Three Cups of Tea” as well as read from their respective religious texts. They talked about the five steps of interfaith dialogue, which they based on their own friendship and experiences.
Rahman said that most people coming together for interfaith dialogue start by comparing their religions and focusing on what they have in common or what is different between them. Prior to even entering that stage, however, he said they need to create context to get to know each other as human beings.
Rahman also emphasized the importance of looking at one’s own religion from multiple perspectives in order to get a better understanding of it. “Interfaith is not about conversion. It’s about completion,” he said.
Milliren and current senior Emily Bishop started the interfaith movement at PLU three years ago when PLU became one of the first schools to participate in President Obama’s interfaith challenge. Last fall, Kulhanek and fellow Campus Ministry steward and Interfaith Student Council co-chair Christian Wold went to Washington, D.C.
Kulhanek described interfaith as different religions coming together to fulfill a global mission, and, in the process, developing friendship and a mutual understanding of each other’s religions. This year’s conference focused on eradicating poverty.
“Besides having a fantastic and comedic presentation … I think it’s very informative, and it really shows how stereotypes and boundaries only limit people, and friendship can emerge from any sort of issue or religious difference,” Kulhanek said.
The imam, the rabbi and the pastor read passages from their holy books which proclaimed their respective religions to be the “right” or “best” one. Then they read other passages with interfaith connotations, implying that all religions were actually one.
They ended their presentation by singing a song in Arabic, Hebrew and English with a simple message: “We are one.”