There are sometimes more differences than similarities between Rabbi Barry Kenter, Dr. Mahjabeen Hassan and Hondi Duncan Brasco.
Each a follower of a different Abrahamic religion, the historical differences in belief go without saying. But each explained to an audience at the Monday that they have found a common ground together, and have been sharing that message through the Center for Jewish-Christian-Muslim Understanding.
"We are simply three human beings who are trying together, as part of an organization, to get people to talk to each other," explained Kenter, the president of the center.
Founded shortly after 9/11, the organization works with people from all three religious backgrounds hoping to promote mutual respect and harmony. They were in Harrison for the first of a entitled "Building Common Ground: Discussion of Community, Civility and Compassion" hosted by the Harrison Library.
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About 14 people attended the 90-minute session where representatives from each faith shared beliefs and readings from their faith that promote civility and compassion. The panel then fielded questions from the audience.
Kenter, rabbi of the Greenburgh Hebrew Center in Dobbs Ferry, explained that the Jewish faith includes "a very real sense of what community is," and shared several stories from his own life. He concluded with a story about how to find a balance between anger and apathy by walking a path in the middle.
Branso is the director for the Christ Church Center for Spiritual Growth at Christ Church in Bronxville. She spoke about the effort it takes to reach across the table during a disagreement to find a common ground.
She joined the board of directors of the Center for Jewish-Christian-Muslim Understanding in 2005 and said it has helped confirm her belief that hospitality and stability can be found among any group of people.
"It really has broadened my experience and I'm very thankful for that," she said.
A recognized speaker and community servant, Dr. Mahjabeen Hassan explained that he was there not to teach or preach his beliefs, but to learn. He said there is a need for people with a love for fellow human beings to put their heads together and explore what they can accomplish.
"Somehow if people with good intentions will come together to find solutions, no matter how small a group, we can just walk out of here," he said. "We will create a ripple, no matter how small, in the sea that will reach the shore and someone will notice it."
Each member of the panel discussed how differences in religious beliefs or politics are set aside so all three can sit at a table in peace. A common thread between all three religions, they explained, is a belief that others should be treated with the same respect you yourself expect.
As far as factual differences in religious beliefs, the three said they just ask people to look past them.
"If you are stuck in the differences we are stuck in the mud," said Hassan.
Audience questions ranged from how to get others to understand your faith when they seem uninterested in finding a common ground, to the role money and resources plays in how hospitable one can be toward others.
Kenter shared with the group a story about his descendents sharing a tablecloth and bag of food during WWII when it was essentially all they had. Hassan added that something as simple as a smile doesn't cost a dime and can go a long way toward sharing a compassionate viewpoint.
"If you can't give anything else as a material thing, you can at least always smile," he said.