Social Action Panel at the San Diego Baha'i Center
On August 11, the San Diego Baha’i Center hosted an interfaith panel titled Faith in Social Action. The purpose of this particular event, part of the 2018 San Diego County Interfaith Awareness Week, was to discuss religion as an agent for social change from a multifaith perspective: Baha’i, Buddhist, Catholic, and Muslim. As the coordinator of our temple’s Dana Group I was invited to provide a Buddhist perspective and speak about some of the community outreach initiatives our temple has engaged in.
Each panelist spent some time describing programs they are currently involved with, such as supporting women’s shelters, feeding the homeless, improving college-level academic performance, among others. It was very inspiring to hear how committed each faith group is to improving the lives of underprivileged segments of our community. I was also pleasantly surprised to hear from other panelists how deeply they feel about certain concepts that are very familiar to us as Buddhists.
Imam Qaisar Wahed Shabir explained that the Quran compels every Muslim to help a neighbor in need, regardless of the latter’s adherence to a different faith, or none at all. “We all breathe the same air. We’re all part of the same body,” he emphatically explained.
Sister Laverne Olberding, the Catholic panelist, expressed her desire to cast aside metaphorical barriers that, for a variety of reasons, prevent assistance from reaching those who need it the most. “We should get rid of dichotomies, ideas of good or bad, and just help,” she stated.
Hearing non-Buddhists speak about what amounts to interdependence, oneness, and the side effects of a dualistic view, allowed me to identify the commonality that exists between different religions. I couldn’t help but think about the analogy of the finger pointing to the moon. When it comes to social action we may practice different faiths, but our goals are one and the same, to reach out and aid our community.
Nazanin Zargarpour Endicott, the Baha’i panelist, talked about a pilot program they implemented that better prepares High School seniors for their transition to college. Since the launch of this initiative, which required substantial changes to the students’ study and testing curriculum, the percentage of college dropouts has decreased substantially.
I had the opportunity to talk about the school supplies drive we completed at the end of July, some of the other initiatives we’re planning on launching in the coming months, as well as the engagement shown by many of our temple members who have gone out and participated in the Women’s March, the Pride Parade, and other grassroots events.
There was a very good response from attendees during the event; I was approached afterwards by several individuals who had questions about Buddhism and expressed an interest in visiting our temple in the future. Special thanks to the temple members and friends who took time off from their Saturday evening to attend this event.