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The Chehalem Cultural Center will host Christianity and Islam experts for public forum 'Not in the Name of My Religion'



Through its annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration, the Chehalem Cultural Center seeks to connect the Newberg community, in a meaningful way, to the critical issues of race, diversity and tolerance in this country.

That event is the product of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day committee, which aims to bring the voice of reason, peace and inclusion to the community.SUBMITTED - Harris Zafar, an author and national spokesperson for the Ahmadiyya Muslim
Community USA, and George Fox University professor Paul Anderson will lead the discussion March 31 at the Chehalem Cultural Center's public forum ‘Not in the Name of My Religion.'

The all-volunteer committee sees no reason, however, to limit that effort to a single event each year, which is why it is looking to engage the community year round and expand the scope of topics to international and global levels.

That was the genesis of “Not in the Name of My Religion: A Public Forum Discussing the Problems with Linking Islam or Christianity to Violence and Warfare,” which the cultural center will host from 7 to 8:30 p.m. March 31.

“There is a section of people across the globe who certainly have a message to send and they’re using Islam as a vehicle to send that message,” CCC Executive Director Robert Dailey said. “We’re going to have a conversation about why or how that is actually linked to religion. Is the violence perpetuated or endorsed in any way by these religions or is it some way being appropriated?”

To do that the committee has invited Harris Zafar, national spokesperson for Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA, and George Fox University Biblical and Quaker Studies professor Paul Anderson to serve as experts in a forum that will be a blend of mediated discussion and open pubic conversation.

In addition to authoring “Demystifying Islam: Tackling the Tough Questions,” Zafar regularly appears on national television and radio, and lectures at colleges across the country to elucidate his organization’s push for pluralism and understanding, advocate for universal human rights, address issues facing Islam and the Muslim world, provide insight on current issues from an Islamic perspective and address the teachings and history of Islam.

A prolific author, editor and academician with whom the community may be familiar with by now, Anderson is a co-founder of the Society of Biblical Literature’s John, Jesus and History Project and a regular contributor to the Huffington Post religion page.

“Maybe, in some way, we can reconcile (that) this divide is currently assigned to a religious difference, but is it really a religious difference?” Dailey said. “I think that’s really the question and we’d like to openly answer it.”

Facilitating the discussion will be George Fox associate professor of politics and peace studies Ron Mock.

In addition to benefitting from the expertise of the Zafar and Anderson, the hope is that members of the public will participate and feel free to ask any questions, even potentially uncomfortable ones.

“This is the cultural center and what we promote is an open dialogue where you can ask a question without anyone else being offended that you asked the question,” Dailey said. “That’s the environment we want to create.”

Dailey expressed great appreciation for committee members, like retired pastor Lionel Muthiah and retired educator Don Sires, for championing these kinds of conversations and programming, which the cultural center is perfectly situated and pleased to facilitate.

“It’s one of our stated values that diversity makes our experience richer and it makes us more tolerant people,” Dailey said. “If we can become more tolerant through these types of programs and understanding the predicaments of the rest of humanity, then we’re in general going to be happier people.”

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