Leaders of an Oklahoma City Buddhist temple — familiar with tour groups of 20 people or less — watched Sunday as more than 100 youths gathered at their place of worship.
Nicole Pham, one of the youth directors at Vien-Giac Buddhist Temple, said the 160 participants of the 2012 Interfaith Youth Tour represented the largest tour group to visit the temple at 5101 NE 36.
Smiling, she and other temple leaders said they were prepared to welcome the big crowd because they believe interfaith awareness is important.
“I think this is a good idea. It's a good way of learning and sharing and understanding,” another temple youth director, Van Nguyen, said Sunday.
The sixth annual youth tour was coordinated by the Oklahoma Council of Churches' Religions United Committee. In addition to the Buddhist temple, young people and their adult advisers also toured St. John Missionary Baptist Church and the Baha'i Faith Center of Edmond.
The Rev. William Tabbernee, Oklahoma Council of Churches' executive director, said the yearly tours give youths an opportunity to visit different houses of worships to learn about the beliefs and traditions of different faiths.
“This is a wonderful turnout, particularly in light of some of the misunderstandings that exists in the world today regarding different faiths,” Tabbernee said as he watched the group file into a chapel at St. John, 5700 N Kelley.
“It lets young people put a ‘face to the faith,' and it makes it more difficult to make a caricature out of other faiths.”
Dr. George Cooper, a Religions United Committee member who is part of the Baha'i Faith, drew laughter from the attendees when he joked that the youths were taking the so-called “B tour” of Buddhist, Baptist and Baha'i houses of worship. He encouraged the young people to get to know someone they had not met before as they rode the buses to each tour site.
A different experience
People from the Christian faith made up the majority of the tour, with several denominations represented including United Methodist, Presbyterian, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Baptist, Unitarian-Universalist and Episcopal — some from as far away as Ardmore and Tonkawa. Other faith groups represented included the Baha'i Faith and Islam.
The Rev. Lawrence Kirk, the church's director of Christian Education, explained the concept of the Holy Trinity in Christianity and the significance of baptism, Communion and how the resurrection of Jesus Christ is a foundational part of the Christian faith.