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Spirited Talks on Diversity

Religion Forum in Irvine Aims to Increase Tolerance Through Understanding


In an effort to increase tolerance and awareness about each other, religions of the world came together at UC Irvine on Sunday.

At least 19 faiths--from Muslims to Buddhists to Quakers and Christians--were represented at the fifth annual Religious Diversity Faire.

The fair gave participants an opportunity to discuss the differences among the religions, while identifying their many similarities, said founder Rabbi Allen Krause.

"Hopefully, out of knowledge, there will come a sense of understanding of the many things we have in common," Krause said.

Haya Sheriff, 23, a student majoring in comparative religions, said she attended the fair to learn about other religions. A Muslim who attends Cal State Fullerton, Sheriff said it is important for people of different faiths to understand each other.

"It's important that we do something about religious strife, and to me this is a step forward in bringing all of the religions together," she said.

Claire Kennedy, 17, of Rancho Santa Margarita said she came to the fair out of curiosity.

"I'm not really a part of any religious community, so I'm just curious to learn about other faiths," she said. "I think there should be more fairs like this all over. Awareness is important."

Her friend David Small, 21, said, "You don't learn much about Eastern religions here in Orange County."

The fair included seminars on spirituality and the role of women in religion.

Nearly 300 attended the event, many hoping to get their own messages out.

"We don't believe in seeking to convert others," said David Lederman of the Orange County Religious Society of Friends, the Quaker church. "This is a way of letting people in the community know what we do."

Others, such as Phina Borgeson, wanted to distribute literature about Project Freedom, a movement to protect freedom of religion.

Borgeson, an organizer with the grass-roots group composed of several churches in Southern California, said the fair seemed to be the ideal place to share information with other groups.

"It is a good opportunity to come together and connect with other people," she said. "We all have a stake in preserving our religious liberties."

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