The Southwest Interfaith Team (SWIFT), a grassroots interfaith organization, held a speakers forum at the St. Michael Parish church in Orland Park last Sunday, September 18, 2011. The forum, “Extremism and Violence in the Name of Religion,” featured Ahmed Rehab, director of CAIR-Chicago on a panel with Rabbi Michael Balinsky, and Mark Swanson, professor of religion at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.
The speakers discussed war, violence, and extremism in the name of religion and what the Christian, Muslim, and Jewish scriptures say about this topic. The speakers’ emphasis was on how “people are interpreting, misinterpreting, and taking [things] out of context,” said Khalid Mozaffar, one of the founders of SWIFT.
While contextualizing Islamic scripture, Rehab talked about how living peacefully alongside other people is advocated in Islam and how violence can only be permitted in cases of self-defense. The Christian and Jewish faiths took similar views in emphasizing peace and non-violence. According to Mozaffar, Rehab was “very well received” by 160 people of whom the majority was Christian.
For eight years now, SWIFT has held speaker forums, dinners, and events that bring together people of different faith backgrounds to facilitate dialogue.
“We have had a positive impact within our communities, with people becoming more respectful towards each other,” said Mozaffar.