Bridging the Faith Gap

An unusual phenomenon took place in the Student Center on Thursday, Oct. 9 as the intersection of the three different Abrahamic faiths came together to discuss their diverse perspectives on what it means to love God and the creation. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Student Association hosted the event in Doheny Beach A, and the three speakers included Andy Wrasman (representing the Christian perspective), Lee Weissman (representing the Jewish point of view) and Qasim Rashid (representing the Islamic perspective). It was a small, intimate group of only 47 people.

Courtesy of Joyce Chu

Courtesy of Joyce Chu

Despite the obvious physical separation between the groups, there was smoothness and a sense of respect for one another evident throughout the night.
Andy Wrasman was the first one invited to speak, and he was honest in laying out his sentiments plainly. Although he does appreciate these interfaith dialogues, he believes that gaps still exist and there are differences that make these religions distinct.

“Discussions like these are very important, especially for societies to have true tolerance that allows dialogue. Every religion can’t be true, but we can seek truth together,” Wrasman said.
Wrasman’s main message throughout his speech, and what he believes distinguishes Christianity from the other two religions, is that God is the one who loves humans first and He loves them no matter what state they are in.

This idea posed by Wrasman is quite different from the Jewish perspective of loving God. Lee Weissman, who spoke after, shares that loving God is a commandment given by God to His people. It’s not about feeling God’s love first; it’s about doing acts of love and having the feelings follow.

“We understand love not to be an emotion, we understand love to be a mode of action,” Weissman said. Similarly, Qasim Rashid, the third speaker, explains love to Allah as one’s duty. Service and submission to Allah are at the crux of Islam. However, helping others is also a very important aspect in loving God and the creation.

“Service to others is a precondition for one to obtain salvation,” Rashid said. “If God has blessed me with wealth, but I refuse to give to charity, then I am harming those who are in need of that charity. If God has blessed me with education but I refuse to impart that education, then I am harming the next generation by not giving them the education to advance.”

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Student Association is intentional about bridging gaps between religions. “Interfaith dialogue humanizes and connects people with one another, increases knowledge of all parties involved and creates harmony and peace amongst seemingly different people,” Harris Ahmed, a member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Student Association, said.

“On campus we felt our religion was being painted and represented in a negative manner. Our religion was/is heavily politicized on campus, often polarizing people. We wanted to demonstrate the aspects of love, peace and dialogue that our religion promotes and combat this negative stigma associated with Islam on campus.”