The premise for engaging in shared human experiences (which is something we encourage here at Harmony Interfaith Initiative) is fairly simple. If people can be around each other doing co-human things—i.e., things that everyone does, such as eating food, helping others, creating, talking about their family, sharing their life story, etc.—and not feel threatened, anxieties are reduced, empathy is increased, trust is built, and perceptions are changed.
More in Common
Here’s the thing. Birds of a feather flock together. People self-segregate. This is both natural and normal so long as it is not coerced. Individuals choose to be around others who are like them.
And yet, most folks make a noteworthy discovery when they set aside visual and ideological distinctions and mingle with people who they previously thought of as completely different, essentially, that they have more in common than they realized.
My Experience With Interfaith Events
This has been my experience with all types of interfaith events. Due to my active engagement, I have had an opportunity to spend time with people of all faiths, which here means all strongly held beliefs, since atheists, humanists and those who call themselves spiritual-but-not-religious also attend these events, albeit in smaller numbers.
In hindsight, I can safely say that my involvement has changed my perceptions more than expected. Every time I drive home from one of these events, a sense of connectedness lingers, subtle anxieties that I didn’t know existed about visual or ideological differences have been reduced, my ability to empathize with those who espouse different beliefs has increased, and I feel hopeful about the human race.
One would think that something amazing would’ve needed to have taken place to create such fantastic results or that I was somehow special in my ability to relate with others. Neither is true. Interactions during these interfaith gatherings are usually rather mundane. In fact, what is unique about them is their mundaneness.
Imagine going to an event with a sense of trepidation, thinking that everyone there is going to be completely different from you. Initially, you would only see those differences, including different garbs and religious wear, different races, different accents, and so on. However, as you’d begin to mingle and interact, you’d find more and more similarities. Little by little you’d realize that all the people there are related through universal co-human elements. They eat like you, laugh like you, think about the weather in the same way, talk about their feelings and families, feel the need for safety, and down the list you go. The experience is ordinary but life-changing at the same time.
Try It For Yourself
That has been my experience. I hope you will consider attending interfaith events in your community. Who knows? Maybe you will experience a similarly mundane transformation.
Rev. Gudjon Bergmann
Founder and Lead Educator at Harmony Interfaith Initiative
This article was adapted from our new book:
Co-Human Harmony: Using Our Shared Humanity to Bridge Divides
Ideas that promote social harmony and bridge-building across divides.
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Our mission is to train and support people who want to do good in the world. We do this by providing access to strategies, methods, and ideas that promote social harmony and enable bridge-building across divides. Our primary goal is to help others create harmony in diverse communities.
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Registered in Hays County, Texas
Founded in 2018
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