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Interfaith Center Educates Religious Leaders About One AnotherAired December 25, 2000 - 4:33 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Joining us this afternoon to talk more about faith sharing is Matt Weiner, he is the program coordinator for the interfaith center of New York.
For some reason Matt Weiner is in San Francisco today, but we appreciate you taking time-out, Matt, to join us. This idea of faith sharing -- is that a new, emerging idea? I don't recall hearing it before.
MATT WEINER, INTERFAITH CENTER OF NEW YORK: Well, it's really not a new idea. In fact, it's really been around, probably since religion has been around. But luckily I think it's become more, kind of, popular, more recognized and more accepted, probably.
WATERS: And why is this important, do you think? What do you do at the interfaith center, for instance?
WEINER: Well, the reason it's important is because should understand one another.
So, for example, at the interfaith center we do a lot of work with education -- trying to educate religious leaders about one another. So, for example, we had day-long seminar about Islam. We had lots of Jewish leaders and Christian leaders and Buddhist leaders coming to our center to learn about the Muslim tradition.
The reason they do that is because they know they have Moslem neighbors in new York city. Every rabbi in New York city has a Muslim -- probably has a mosque within walking distance. And same with the Hindu Mundir (ph). So it's very important for them, even if they're not so interested in interfaith, so to speak, they're interested in knowing who their neighbors are for the sake of their congregation.
WATERS: Do you find any resistance within the community to this notion of interfaith sharing?
WEINER: There's so resistance, to some degree. But it's actually interesting, you know -- a lot of religious leaders will come in and actually be interested in interfaith. A lot of religious leaders are not necessarily interested in interfaith.
But as soon as you bring it to them in a sense of saying, look, this is an important thing for you to know -- you should know who you neighbors are; it's a kind of educational situation. Then there's a lot less resistance.
We get a lot of people coming to our center who are not necessarily, kind of, interfaith junkies, so to speak. They're just good rabbis, good priests, good Buddhist monks who know that they need to know something about who their neighbors are.
WATERS: And I guess the best example of needing to know something is exemplified by what's going on in the Middle East. We saw Ariel Sharon appearing at the Temple Mount, or Haram al-Sharif, as the Moslems call it; and that triggered the latest mini-intifadah, if you will, over there.
There seems to be a total lack of understanding about interfaith sharing over there that perhaps something like your movement could have some influence on, to show people that there's more than one way.
WEINER: Well, this is something we're working on. We're working on it with Imams, we're working with -- which are Muslim leaders -- working on it with Jewish rabbis, we're working on it with Christian leaders.
It's situations like this that, of course, we need to, kind of, do work ahead of time and get some kind of educational work done ahead of time to try to work on these situations. Once they're really blown up like this it's more difficult; but there's nothing else to do except to try.
And there are, actually -- unfortunately it maybe doesn't get put in the media as much as it should because there are Muslim leaders and Jewish leaders in New York city, as we speak, working on these issue.
WATERS: They're working on this peace agreement once again, and that's the heart of it once again.
WEINER: Right; the other thing is that all of these traditions -- and this is really -- this is not just a, kind of, silly, blanket statement -- seriously, all of these religions traditions have incredible teachings of peace and tolerance within them; incredible sets of ethical codes and integrity. And when the religious leaders can, kind of -- can use those, they can kind of use them as tools, both to kind of bring their flocks, so to speak, as well as themselves to the table.
WATERS: Well, we can only wish you the very best of luck at your interfaith center. Matt Weiner, Happy Hanukkah. Thanks much.
WEINER: Thank you very much; merry Christmas to you.
WATERS: Thanks for being with us today.
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