Gathering Around the Good: Religion Panel – “What does it mean to believe?”

Jan 27, 2014


This past Tuesday, January 21st, 2014, Diversity Awareness Partnership organized a panel of religious leaders from throughout the St. Louis area. This panel was organized to bring awareness about various religions throughout the St. Louis community, how the religious community encourages interfaith and intrafaith partnerships, and above all, the steps St. Louis is taking to embrace the good of all religions, including affiliated and non-affiliated community members. The panelists were Rabbi Brigitte Rosenberg, who identifies as Jewish, Reverend Mike Kinman, who identifies as Christian, Dr. Ghazala Hayat, who identifies as Muslim, and Leslie Heberlie, who identifies as non-affiliated.

“Gathering Around the Good” was an opportunity to focus on the positive aspects of religious traditions and highlights of their religious community. Reverend Mike Kinman stated the media dedicates a lot of what we know about religious identity and their goal is to “sell conflict in order to make people choose a side to fight a common enemy.” From this, there is an understanding for need for more conversations about how to focus on the good and continue to build relationships across religious and non-affiliated communities.

Each panelist gave take-away points that will continue to spark new conversations and new initiatives in the St. Louis area:

Rabbi Brigitte Rosenberg, of the United Hebrew Congregation, spoke about the need to ask questions of religious leaders. She believes in order to continue the conversations about beliefs and religious affiliations, there is a need to address stereotypes about religion.

Leslie Heberlie, the Director of Communications and Administration for Interfaith Partnership of Greater St. Louis, spoke about the need to bridge the conversations between affiliated and non-affiliated members of the community. She also discussed how access points to the matters people believe in does not always need to include an organized place of religion.

Dr. Ghazala Hayat, of Saint Louis University, stated conversations need to continue by creating an open and welcoming community in order to help members grow in their own beliefs – even if it is different from the ones she holds. Also learning about one’s own religious traditions and beliefs is part of the strategy to engage in interfaith dialogue.

Reverend Mike Kinman, of Christ Church Cathedral, mentioned that affiliated and non-affiliated community members are on a path of integrity. He stated many people believe you need to choose one path or one religion, but there needs to be a place that allow people to be mold what they believe in to fit their needs.

This panel was able to identify the work that we as a community still need to do around the identity of religion. But, it also shed light on the good parts of religious organizations and the next steps we can take to engage in ongoing conversations.

All in all, the message of the panel was clear:  Everyone believes in something and working together to have discussions about beliefs and traditions will continue to increase the ability to see the good in our affiliated and non-affiliated community.

Written by: Kelly McKay, MSW Candidate, Intern