By Thania Requeno
The Frank Islam Athenaeum Symposia has held many wonderful programs for Montgomery College students and staff. Paul Monteiro was the guest of honor, along with other speakers, and came to discuss Interfaith Dialogue and its significance in Public Policy and the White House. Paul Monteiro is a former Associate Director in the White House Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs. Monteiro explained that the purpose of interfaith dialogue is “to try and strengthen faith; not homogenize it.” In the white house, there are leaders from different backgrounds of faith and they all work together to make decisions for our community, nation, and humanity. Monteiro discussed a project President Obama has called the Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge. This challenge consists of volunteers from all different faiths: Christianity, Islamism, Buddhism, and Hinduism. They get together and volunteer at food banks, homeless shelters, public schools and more to serve the community and make a change. By partnering together for this project, volunteers help the community in need while also getting to know one another and different beliefs. This is interfaith dialogue at its best.
Paul Monteiro went through the global religious landscape. A pie chart was shown to describe what religion people affiliate with around the globe. Christians had 31.5%, Muslims had 23.2% Unaffiliated, which were later referred to as ‘nones’, had 16.3% and Hindus had 15%. Monteiro asked, “What will happen when we begin to see a significant growth of ‘Nones’?” This question provoked the audience to reexamine their beliefs. Another guest speaker, Yahya Hendi, is the Imam of the Islamic society of Frederick, Maryland and is the Muslim chaplain at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. Imam Yahya Hendi said the bold statement that “we are up against two things: fear and ignorance.” Interfaith dialogue reaches out to “nones” and those that have fear or ignorance towards faith. Interfaith dialogue helps build faith to those that may not have any. We see interfaith dialogue in the white house and in our community to build and empower every individual’s beliefs.
Paul Monteiro and other special guest were very informative and passionate about interfaith dialogue in the white house. They succeeded in sharing what they have done for their community. By applying what we have learned about interfaith dialogue, we can change and strengthen our campus and community.