Art of Interfaith Understanding

Art of Interfaith Understanding

Interfaith community dialogue is one of my passions.  Last month, I was invited by the Inter-faith Center of Greater Philadelphia to attend a dialogue session for clergy at the Art Institute of Philadelphia.  The dialogue session was in the form of a tour led by All Rev.John B. Hougen, PhD,  a consultant with the Interfaith Center and a volunteer guide at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  Our clergy group included Rabbis, Imams, Christian clergy, and teachers of the Bahai faith.  I was blessed to join Rabbi Larry Troster from Kesher Israel and Rev John Woodcock from the Church of the Loving Shepherd,  Rev Annalie Korengal and Pam Murphy from our local Bahai community. We proudly represented our area at the program. We began by exploring art from the Jewish, Christian and Muslim tradition.  After our tour, we broke up in discussion groups and were asked to look at one painting in depth. My group focused on the painting The Liberation of The Peon byDiego Rivera. It was enlightening to hear the perspectives of fellow clergy, a Protestant, and a Mennonite minister. We shared perspectives on the compassion shown in the painting, by the rebels. This painting was created in the1930s around the time of the Mexican Revolution. While homes are being burned in the background, the foreground shows the rebels liberating a man who has been beaten and bound.  We were struck by the juxtaposition of violence and compassion.  The men wear ammunition around their necks which helps to convey their hardened and violent lives, but they are drawn with soft lines and shown in muted colors.  Their faces and postures are full of compassion as they incline forward to take care of their fallen comrade.  We all agreed that the horses in the background are glaring at the viewer, challenging us to take action.  It was fascinating to wrestle with the juxtaposition of war and compassion, hardness and softness, revolution and human response, through the lens of different theologies.  Our teens are involved this year in the Walking the Walk interfaith fellowship this year.  As we continue to be touched by the Interfaith Center of Philadelphia and their programs, my hope is that we can expand our teen participation and begin to get some of our adults involved. My experience with the center and their programming has been an incredible introduction to the richest hat our wider community has to offer.