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Interfaith Council hosts discussions

Religious leaders congregate to compare their faiths

Posted: October 27, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: October 27, 2012 2:00 a.m.

Jonathan Kraut, president of Santa Clarita Valley Interfaith Council and moderator at the council meeting, left, and panelists Prabhu Ambatipudi, Hinduism representative, center, and Mohamed Abdulghany, Islam representative.

A small group of people gathered in the local Barnes & Noble bookstore conference room Tuesday night for a meeting of faiths. Over the past few months, the Santa Clarita Valley Interfaith Council has offered meetings like this in a discussion series titled “Know Your Neighbor.”

The event, which is open to the community, offers an opportunity for people of different faiths to come together to share their differences, similarities and allow spectators to explore faith practices.

Four panelists representing four faiths are invited to each meeting. This time, representatives of Hinduism, Islam, Christianity and Judaism were present. Three predetermined questions were posed to the panel, and viewers offered their own questions at the end — some focusing on politics, healing rituals and prayers.


Panelist were first asked how their faith brings out the best in their congregation. All the panelists seemed to find a commonality and expressed how their faiths inspire their congregations to make the world a better place.

“The synagogue is like a fire,” said Rabbi Howard Siegel, from Congregation Beth Shalom. “It is a place where you come to be inspired. The people of Judaism are not interested in converting people. We are interested in making this a better world for all people.”

Mohamed Abdulghany, the representative of the Islamic faith, added that the Islamic faith aspires to “join hands in cooperation and propagate goodness.”

Later, Jonathan Kraut, president of the Interfaith Council, asked panelists to explain how their faiths help to empower and influence the community. The panelists were in agreement again, sharing the emphasis each faith places on community service.

A few differences were also expressed as Prabhu Ambatipudi explained Hinduism’s focus on connection by seeing a system of separate parts as a connected whole and valuing acceptance of all people.

“Hinduism focuses on a sense of universality, compassion and connectedness,” Ambatipudi said. “Individuals are connected to families which are connected to communities, to nations and to the world. A lack of universal vision is what creates conflicts, so we focus on a theme of acceptance, not just tolerance.”

Both Abdulghany and Pastor Steve Whitney from Real Life Church also explained the high value their faiths place on serving the community, but also added the component of love.

“Loving people is a way to empower and influence them,” Whitney said. “It is the strongest motivation and empowering force in the world.”

Each faith later explained specific rituals and developmental steps offered to children to help them grow in their specific faiths, highlighting practices such as bar mitzvahs, baby dedications, memorizing prayers, yoga and meditation.

“Hinduism is often referred to as the world’s oldest religion, but it is more a way of life, said Ambatipudi. “It is a ritual-filled tradition. What the rituals mean to Hindus are an expression of devotion to God on a day-to-day basis.”

Interfaith panel discussions will resume next year and are open to the community. For more information, visit the Santa Clarita Valley Interfaith Council’s Facebook page.



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