Leaders from St. Raphael the Archangel Catholic Church and the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community of Oshkosh came together last week for an interfaith discussion with the community to highlight the positive contributions religion has made to the world.
Father Luke Ferris, of St. Raphael, and Khurram Ahmad, president of the Ahmadiyya community in Oshkosh, each spoke about how their religions have affected society during the forum at the community’s mosque on Eagle Street. The speakers were followed by a question and answer session.
Question topics ranged from the basic principles of the two religions to more controversial subjects, such as jihad and Quran burning.
Ahmed Khan, a spokesman for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community of Oshkosh, said he helped organize the discussion to bring the community together and work toward solving problems.
“The only way we can be more powerful is to work together to do that,” Khan said. “Interfaith events foster understanding, unity, but then it leads into action by working together to solve the problems of our world.”
Khan said he thinks a lot of the negativity in society can be turned around through understanding each other and working together.
“We don’t necessarily have to make them the burdens of our government,” he said. “They can be our burdens, our individual burdens, and through community service solve a lot of these problems.”
While the majority of the questions were aimed at Ahmad and focused on Islam, Ferris said he was happy with how the discussion turned out.
With people asking about both the differences and similarities among Christianity and Islam, he said he was excited that so many people in the area seemed to have a desire to learn about each other.
“That’s how we truly do come to a deeper understanding of each other,” Ferris said.
The event originally was scheduled to also include representatives from the Jewish and Sikh faiths, but both speakers canceled because of personal reasons before the event Thursday.
Wanting to gain a basic understanding of Islam is what attracted Joan Keltesch to participate in the discussion.
Keltesch said her knowledge of the religion was limited to what she sees on the news, which she said is usually negative and about violence.
“There is a fear in the community because of ignorance,” she said. “We don’t understand what the Muslim community is about.”
Keltesch said what she took away from the event was that the two faiths being discussed were much more similar than she had originally thought.
“What I learned is that we have more in common than we have different.”