People of many different religions gathered Thursday night
without the tension, controversy and arguments that might be
Student leaders, faith-based groups and faculty members making
up an audience of about 50 people gathered on Thursday night in the
Lory Student Center for an event called “Embracing Unity through
Dialogue.” The Interfaith Dialogue Committee hosted the event.
Joyce Bignell, regional executive director of the Denver-based
National Center for Community and Justice, was the keynote speaker.
She opened the event with audience interaction. Everyone in the
room stood up and stated their name. Bignell then gave basic
instructions and guidelines for a successful dialogue.
“You do not win in dialogue,” Bignell said. “You win in
Bignell set the first rule-respect. The floor was then opened
for the audience to suggest rules for the night’s dialogues. A few
members sporadically offered rules such as listening, interacting,
avoiding prejudgment, remaining open-minded, avoiding arguments and
having everyone share. Bignell also instructed the audience to use
the word “I.”
“You know what you think and what you believe,” Bignell
After the rules were set, the night’s focus was brought into
perspective. Bignell formulated a list of reasons to dialogue. The
six-fold list was to identify issues and concerns, identify common
ground, identify difference, meet people, have the opportunity to
express one’s point of view and have the opportunity to gain
The audience then broke up into six groups ranging in size from
six to 10 people. Each group was formed before the meeting and
included people from different religious affiliations. Group
facilitators had lists of topics for dialogue. The topics allowed
participants to discuss and learn about other religions.
“I loved discussing what I believe and not arguing about it,”
said Lubna Farah, a junior biology major. “The best thing was to
connect with people of other religions, the bad thing was not
The groups then rejoined for some concluding comments from
“The mark of a good meeting is when you’re talking, talking,
talking,” Bignell said. “An hour and a half ago I couldn’t get you
to answer a question.”
Bignell then opened the floor to the audience that more readily
gave its input. A cap had to be placed on the list of suggestions
for future dialogue topics.
“This was a kick-off event,” said Josh Dember, a member of the
Interfaith Dialogue Committee. “It’s a teaser for what we have
potential to bring to CSU next year.”
Thursday night’s event was not the first event to focus on
bridging gaps between different religions, said Hedy Berman,
director of Hillel, the international Jewish college student
“Tonight is distinguished because it was student-initiated,”
The two previous meetings were predominantly for faculty and
staff and were focused on Muslims and Jews. Bignell noticed the
diversity in Thursday night’s audience.
“One of the biggest achievements (of the night) was networking
to other (religious) groups,” said Mike Wagstaff, chair of the
Interfaith Dialogue Committee.
The audience members were thanked for taking part in one of the
foundational meetings in the anticipated chain of dialogues for
next year. They were also given a challenge in Dember’s closing
“I challenged awareness in the difference between debate and
dialogue,” Dember said. “And I challenged them to realize and work
(debate and dialogue) into their everyday life.”