Giving peace a chance

Local spiritual leaders discuss trip to the Parliament of the World’s Religions

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Unity Spiritual Center of North Idaho Rev. Deidre Ashmore and her husband, Andrew, and colleagues attended the 2015 Parliament of the World’s Religions in October. The meeting centered on peace and ways for all cultures and faiths to live in harmony.

COEUR d'ALENE — All John Lennon was saying was "Give Peace A Chance."

According to Rev. Deidre Ashmore of Unity Spiritual Center of North Idaho, that's all every religion is truly saying.

“No true religion wants to kill any other religion,” Ashmore said Friday afternoon. “I don’t know how many thousands of years ago, Muslims and Jews did live in peace, and even Christians, before the Crusades. Even in Serbia and those areas, those people did live in peace before.”

Ashmore and her husband, Andrew, along with Unity's youth education director, Karen Custer, and her 17-year-old daughter, Sita, recently attended the 2015 Parliament of the World's Religions in Salt Lake City. The five-day event assembled more than 10,000 people from more than 50 religions throughout 80 nations. The Parliament is the world's oldest, largest and most inclusive gathering of people of all traditions and faiths.

The theme of this year's event was "Reclaiming the heart of our humanity: Working together for a world of compassion, peace, justice and sustainability."

"What I really took away from that is all these people, in all these religions, came together for just one purpose — and that was peace," said Custer, of Post Falls. "Peace among the world and of all religions. That was the common goal."

Ashmore described the gathering as a festival of love, where individuals of all faiths explored options for managing climate change, ending war, promoting peace, stopping acts of terror and finding ways for people of all backgrounds to live together in harmony.

"War is an outmoded way to solve things," Ashmore said. "Nobody wins."

She said she was moved many times by her experiences with the different religious cultures and their customs, such as the Sikh "Langar" tradition, where food is generously served to guests.

“Both men and women had to cover our heads … and then we came into this huge ballroom and we had to take off our shoes and they had carpets lined out and big tables filled with lots of food," she said. "They said, ‘Come this way,’ and two men talked to us about the tradition in the Sikh faith — taking care of each other.

“That touched my heart so much because of that act of kindness and generosity."

Custer and Ashmore both said they were impressed by the Palestinian and Israeli youths that held sessions to interact and converse about building positive relationships between their people.

"That’s incredible, given the history of those two countries," Custer said. "These kids do not want to repeat history, they want to build the bond and they're doing it. They are going somewhere, and they're showing us up."

On the subject of rampant terrorist attacks and refugees fleeing from their war-torn homelands, Ashmore said it's "a symptom of a global issue — it's a symptom of man's inhumanity to man."

“The human right of existing, it’s organic to this planet, you have a right to be here,” she said. “It’s not ‘tolerance.’ Nobody wants to be ‘tolerated.’ People want to be accepted. It’s just the human respect and dignity. The human race, in case we haven’t noticed, has a lot of things in common — breathing, eating, children and love. So it’s that whole decency thing of calling everybody higher.”

Custer said the Parliament was the trip of a lifetime for her and her daughter, a worldly experience that brought home some very important and pressing issues.

"Be open-minded, don't buy into the media hype, don't be so narrow-minded, can the stereotypes, be willing to work for peace, respect other religions," she said. "That's what it all boils down to, is respect."

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