Patel said the notion that people from a range of faith traditions should respect the different faith traditions of others dates back to the nation's Founding Fathers — Washington, Jefferson — among them. He said over the years, religious pluralism has been championed by many others in America such as President James Madison, a Holocaust survivor who marched with King, President George W. Bush in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 and President Barack Obama in the present day.
By the same token, he said religious pluralism has a long and exalted history in the tradition of Islam and other faith traditions as well.
“There is a tradition, a theology of interfaith cooperation, in a sense that partnering with people who are different from us is not just a civic good — it is a sacred good,” Patel said.
He shared the example of the Christian parable of the good Samaritan chronicled in the Bible. He said the Samaritans were people who prayed in a different temple than the Jewish community of Jesus and yet Jesus told people to pattern themselves after the good Samaritan's model of offering aid to someone who is different.
He said there is often confusion that interfaith cooperation is about “diluting faith or it's only about liberal theology, liberal politics, but interfaith cooperation is fundamentally about the holiness of building relationships between people who have different views on religion.”
Patel is a member of President Barack Obama's Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnership and was named one of America's Best Leaders by U.S. News & World Reports. In anticipation of his visit, OCU and the Interfaith Alliance helped nurture several interfaith book study groups around the metro area to encourage people to read his book “Acts of Faith” together.
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