Faith and respect for one's fellowman go hand in hand or at least that's the goal.
How various faith traditions treat others will be the focus of the Matter of Faith - 2012 Summer Series, sponsored by the Ecumenical Conference of Greater Altoona. Speakers from the Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist faiths will share what their scriptures and philosophies say about having compassion and concern for others as well as personal experiences from their own faith journeys.
Interfaith Journey: History and Hope will be held at 7 p.m. July 17, 24 and 31 at Temple Beth Israel, 3004 Union Ave. The sessions are free, but donations are accepted. The series is made possible by a grant from the Greater Altoona Jewish Federation.
Cindy Baney, facilitator for the series, said it will look at "how do we deal with people who are different from us. Do we welcome the stranger? How do we treat people in need?"
The speakers will reflect on the past, but also look at ways their traditions are changing in their mission to serve others.
Monsignor Michael Becker, pastor of St. John the Evangelist Church in Lakemont, will speak on Catholicism and how the Second Vatican Council of 1962-65 opened up dialogue between Catholics and Protestants as well as improving relations between Jews and Christians.
Becker said Vatican II encouraged dialogue between Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox Christians with non-Catholic Christians invited to be observers at the sessions.
He was in seminary at the time and remembers attending classes with Lutherans and Methodists at their schools as well as at the Catholic one.
He said Vatican II brought a spirit of ecumenism to churches.
Rabbi Audrey Korotkin of Temple Beth Israel, said the Temple has been part of the interfaith community for a long time and it is an honor for it to host the event.
"Our Jewish tradition teaches us to respect other people no matter what their background," she said.
"We are to love our fellowman as ourself, to treat the stranger the way we want to be treated," she said.
Throughout history, people of the Jewish faith have been treated as "the other," she said and sometimes as less than human.
Referring to today, she said people don't seem to treat others with respect, particularly in the political sphere.
"It makes the conversation very timely and very important," Korotkin said.
Shamsa Anwar, a member of the Islamic Center of Central Pennsylvania in Altoona, said when people have a personal agenda, it creates problems.
She said today the Islamic faith is not always practiced in the correct way and is being used as a tool for political reasons.
Anwar said Prophet Muhammad always taught respect for others and the Quran teaches the importance of treating strangers with respect.
Jim Hite, who along with his wife, Marguerite, will talk about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said sometimes the Mormons are perceived as a closed group because the temples are only open to Saints in good standing.
He said the chapels are open to everyone and the church near Hollidaysburg has a sign that says, "Visitors Welcome."
Deacon Jack Hoffer said he will share about how the Episcopal church interacts with other faith traditions. and is in full communion with the Lutheran, the Moravian and Polish National Catholic churches.
He said Episcopalians work with people of other faiths on issues, such as immigration, and were known for their settlement houses in New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore.
Michael Allison, who adheres to the Buddhist philosophy, said he will share about his personal journey and how growing up in the early 1960s and '70s shaped his life.
In his research, Allison learned that Buddhism teaches that all people are interrelated and that similarities in people go beyond the superficial.
"All our judgments get in the way of embracing the fact that we are part and parcel of one another," he said. "We are all interconnected. "We are all the same, we are all one. Hence, I am a Buddhist."
He said Buddhism has a methodology that everyone tries to follow. He said that no matter what faith leader one follows, all uttered some form of the golden rule, and the story of the good Samaritan embodies the belief in the universal brotherhood of man.
"Whatever your faith, come and share something about yourself [at the series]," Allison said. "You will find that you are just like me."