• Kenneth Crooks, Jr.
    Executive Director Emeritus

  • As times change, what previously was a ‘dialogue about race’ has evolved into a holistic approach to diversity in our community and beyond.

    One Columbus, has also evolved, strengthening its core mission: striving to inspire, motivate, promote diversity, and ensure that each member of the community is respected and valued. Recognizing and appreciating diversity is an obligation to which each of us must be committed. If we accept and act on this challenge, then Columbus will truly become a ‘One Columbus’.

Prejudice Reduction Seminar 2012, Part I, Middle East Religions with Prof. Denny Clark”

An attendee’s account of the Prejudice Reduction Seminars, Session I on Middle East Religion with Professor. Emeritus Denny Clark, 1LT Brennan Roorda

Hearing the Quran quoted in a public forum, in front of a mixed audience, is not a common occurrence in today’s America. It’s a lamentable circumstance, given the pervasive, often veiled (though sometimes overt) suspicion and even fear in our society of one of the world’s most widespread religions: Islam. The quote, as an exhortation to humanity to accept the differences between each other and between different communities, was an appropriate ending to the first lecture of One Columbus’ Prejudice Reduction Seminars.

This pilot series of Prejudice Reduction Seminars, held at the Columbus Metropolitan Library, focuses on one of the most commonly spoken of regions of the world: the Middle East.

More specifically, the series seeks to dispel common misperceptions and prejudices regarding peoples in and from that region. The opening lecture, delivered by Professor Denny Clark, Professor Emeritus of Theology from the University of Idaho, on Thursday evening, addressed religions and religious diversity in the Middle East.

By opening with such a potentially controversial topic, the organizers of the series, One Columbus and its program manager, Ms. Rose Espinola, have set the stage for the program to truly confront potential prejudices and break down common misunderstandings. Professor Clark, in perfect fashion, pulled no punches in addressing some of the most divisive and poorly understood issues: religious diversity throughout the region, varying levels of religious influence on politics, and the Palestinian – Israeli Conflict. Through the course of the hour long lecture, Professor Clark destroyed the “cubby holes” of religious identities we tend to create by showing the multiplicity of religions in the Middle East beyond simply “the big three”(Judaism, Christianity and Islam). Furthermore, he continued on to break down any monolithic identities by demonstrating the immense complexity and diversity within each of those religions, beginning with the different types of Judaism in Israel, moving to the different schools of Islam, and finishing with the various sects of Christianity.

When asked why people, particularly Americans, tend to turn to such “cubby holes” – simple mental boxes in which we place people- Professor Clark hit right at the heart and with no apology, hesitation, or prevarication, responded:

“Laziness. Intellectual laziness”, he said. “It’s easy. However, such cubby holes do serve a practical purpose… the key is to be humble about them.”

By undertaking such a program as these Prejudice Reduction Seminars, One Columbus is filling a persistent gap. It’s long overdue. Since 2001, across the United States, mainstream media has done a dismal job at presenting information and demonstrating balanced perspectives on the Middle East, a region in which our country is intimately politically involved. As a result, grassroots organizations, such as One Columbus, need to shoulder the burden, begin building bridges, and transcending perceived cultural barriers.

I was truly pleasantly surprised by the first lecture of this pilot series and I’m looking forward to the next lecture on 21 June. I’d encourage – even challenge – anyone with an interest in the world and an open mind to attend as well and to see what you might learn.

With respect,

-Brennan Roorda

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