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West Texas hosts second interfaith panel

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Posted: Tuesday, February 28, 2012 12:00 am

As only a West Texas interfaith panel could do, a Baptist minister and a Muslim imam joked with each other about a familiar topic: football.

Originally from El Paso, and currently working with two Houston mosques, Imam Wazir Ali said he played football in El Paso and when he approached the First Baptist Church of Midland, he recognized the football stadium nearby.

“I’ll say it was heartwarming,” Ali said.

Ali and the Rev. Randel Everett of Midland’s First Baptist Church were two of five spiritual leaders who kicked off the Permian Basin’s second annual interfaith panel Tuesday evening.

The others panelists included Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami of Kauai’s Hindu Monestary in Hawaii, the Rev. James Bridges of St. Stephen’s Catholic Church in Midland and Rabbi Holly Cohn of Temple Beth-El in Odessa.

Dr. Padmaja Patel initiated both Tuesday’s panel and the inaugural interfaith panel last April, both of which were well attended.

Structured around a series of questions submitted by each panel member, the topics varied and included things like what each faith’s main belief was and religious practices in the home.

It was the first time a Muslim speaker participated in the panel and it was the first time Cohn participated since she replaced Rabbi Sidney Zimmelman as permanent rabbi.

As a female rabbi, Cohn had a slightly different perspective when the topic came to the role of women in the faith.

“I often get the statement, ‘I didn’t know women could be rabbis,’ ” Cohn told the audience.

But, Cohn explained that there are close to 600 women currently serving as rabbis since the first woman became a rabbi in 1972.

Although, she explained that the role of women within Jewish communities varies depending on the practices of the particular community and whether they are reform, conservative or orthodox.

While he was interested in learning more about his own faith (Catholicism), Midland resident Ken Nolen said he was also interested in learning more about other people’s beliefs and respecting those beliefs.

When asked why such interfaith dialogue was important, Ali had a simple answer: “Because we’ve all got to live together and get along.”

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