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Friday, December 12, 2014

Building Bridges

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(This week's guest writer is by First Presbyterian member, Marsha Dallas. Marsha is an educator here in Lincoln and chairs the Mission Committee of First Presbyterian Church. When she isn't teaching, reading, or writing, she is enjoying lively conversations with her family and finding ways to make her friends laugh.)

Building bridges; itís hard work, but when the work is complete it saves many people time and energy. We can think of it that way in respect to human relationships. If we work to build bridges of understanding we can avoid the negative efforts of hate and war.

I had the opportunity this week to hear two human bridge builders speak. The first was Marion Blumenthal Lazan, a survivor of the Nazi concentration camps of World War II. The second, Eboo Patel, is the founder and executive director of the Interfaith Youth Core.
Marionís experiences were horrific, but she held out hope for her family through an imaginary game of finding four perfect pebbles. She was 10 when Russian troops liberated their camp. All four members of her immediate family had survived, but her father succumbed to illness after the liberation. Marion, her mother, and her brother emigrated to the United States. She and her husband now travel around the country and the world to share her message of courage and to ask her audiences to never allow such atrocities to happen again.

Marionís message to the students at Lincoln Junior High was to respect each other, especially to respect others who are different. She asked them to reach out to new students and create those human connections that bring peace in the world. She told the students that they would be the last generation to hear her story firsthand, and she hoped that they would share her story with their children and grandchildren.

 

In contrast to Lazan, Eboo Patel is relatively young and a Muslim. He grew up in a wealthy Chicago suburb. He attended the University of Illinois and became interested in working to overcome the divisive nature of religious beliefs. He realized that all religious traditions promote kindness, service, and hospitality to strangers. Instead of focusing on the beliefs that divide us as people with different orientations around religion, we should create bridges of acceptance by seeking out those similar beliefs. He expressed that it is not our mission to reach agreement on divisive issues. We should work on building relationships and respect. His focus is on young adults, because their energy and openness can join to support multi-faith service initiatives.
Building bridges is an important job. Itís not a mission that will get done immediately. We may still be building far into the future. But we should not forfeit the conversation to others who want to yell louder and spread hate. If we donít speak up to preserve human dignity and build connections with others, we risk losing the chance to deepen our own faith.

[Marsha Dallas of First Presbyterian Church in Lincoln]

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