By JOHN WYATT – STAFF WRITER
Centre College has always prided itself on bringing in students from all walks of life, giving Centre more diversity. A religious panel between Centre’s various faith organizations seeks to open up dialogue between various religions that Centre represents. The religious panel will be hosted in Newlin Hall, Thurs., Nov. 21, at 8 p.m.
The panel is organized by each of the Centre’s faith-based organizations: Centre Christian Fellowship (CCF), the Jewish Student Organization (JSO), the Muslim Student Association (MSA), and CentreFaith.
Paul L. Cantrell Professor of Religion Rick Axtell will be moderating the panel. The panel will start with some general questions directed toward the panelists in regards to their faith experiences and encounters with people outside of their own faith.
Then, each of the organizations will provide a question, particularly directed toward theology and practice. After each group has asked their question, the session will be open to student questions, which will be submitted on note cards.
Each organization is bringing in a speaker to represent a particular faith. Panelists were chosen either from scholars or clergymen of particular faiths. For CentreFaith, members decided to bring in Dae Gak to represent the Zen Buddhist tradition. Gak is the guiding teacher of Furnace Mountain in Clay City, Ky., while also serving as a guiding teacher for several other Zen groups across North America, Germany, and England.
Gak was chosen by CentreFaith (a non-denominational faith group) to represent a particular faith that is not largely represented on Centre’s campus or the surrounding area.
“We chose to go with a Buddhist teacher because it’s a religion I don’t think Centre students come into contact with a lot,” senior Bill Williamson, president of CentreFaith, said.
For MSA, students invited Javaid Siddiqui. While not being a traditional scholar, Siddiqui is regarded as being very knowledgeable in the Lexington Muslim Community, according to senior Shafrin Choudhury, president of MSA. “We feel he can showcase Islam in a mature manner without bringing up unnecessary controversy,” Choudhury said. “There are many Muslims who go to him with questions about their faith, and he helps guide them on their journey.”
JSO is bringing in Aaron Shub, who is training at Yeshivat Chovevi Torah Rabbinical School in New York. Shub’s training to be a rabbi makes him ideal for the panel, according to senior Marlena Alleva, president of JSO. “Doing this sort of thing is in line with what he wants to be doing as a rabbi,” Allena said. Shub also comes from an Orthodox background, one that many students are unfamiliar with, even those in JSO. “I think, even for Centre Jews, it will offer a different perspective than most would get,” Alleva said.
For CCF, students chose to bring in Ted Cabal, who comes from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is also general editor of The Apologetic Study Bible. Senior Cody Pritchett, president of CCF, gives a description of Cabal’s history as a Christian.
“He was actually an atheist for a while,” Pritchett said, “but he had a conversion experience, and now he’s a Christian who defends his faith.”
Each member of the organization stressed that the panel isn’t aimed at addressing political issues, but more about theological issues as well as interfaith. “We don’t want it to become really political,” Alleva said. “We want it more to focus on interfaith relations and how to approach interfaith dialogues.”
All organizations involved share similar goals for the panel.
“I hope that students will have a better understanding of the different faiths that are presented and have a more open mind to learning about other religions,” Choudhury said.
Williamson hopes to show that there’s more to Centre than meets the eye. “What we want with this panel is to show people that Centre is not homogenous, that we are a diverse place,” Williamson said.
Please contact those interviewed as well as Dr. Axtell for more information on the panel.