Interfaith Dialogue & Religious Freedom

February 25, 2020

In a program providing an overview of the moral and philosophical basis of religious life and freedom in the United States, six visitors from Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Germany, Greece and Norway came to San Antonio to investigate historical underpinnings of the separation of church and state and its ongoing relevance in modern American society, especially in our community.

 

On Friday morning, our guests began their program by meeting with representatives of the SAMMinistries Transitional Living and Learning Center.  The IVLP group learnt that it was originally founded by the First Presbyterian Church in Downtown San Antonio and was reincorporated after eleven different congregations agreed upon the need to work together to fight homelessness in their community. This meeting was a great start by presenting how their faith roots inform their model of service.

 

The next meeting took place in the University of the Incarnate Word, where they met with Dr. Raymond Blanton, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication Arts in the School of Media and Design. He shared with the visitors about his research on the mythology of the road in twentieth-century American culture, the Delta blues, the American civil rights movement and the parabolic discourse of Martin Luther King, Jr., working class experience, millennial culture, loyalty and leadership, public memory, and the cinema. The conversation also included dialogue on the practice and challenges of covering topics of religion in the U.S.

 

After lunch, the visitors met with a representative from the peaceCENTER, a unique cross-cultural and interfaith dialogue organization. The group heard about their work promoting events where diverse parts of the greater San Antonio community can exchange ideas, concerns, and solutions, and how this has allowed them to talk about the intersection of faith with many aspects of life in the United States including immigration, politics, philanthropy, society, and more.

 

On Saturday, our guests experienced the cultural side of San Antonio taking a narrated boat ride along the Riverwalk and visiting San Antonio Missions. That evening was special for them as they were able to meet with SACIV’s members in smaller groups for home hospitality. Each delegate had a face-to-face conversation sharing their experience and thoughts about vital topics of everyday life. 

 

Monday morning began at the  Unicorn Centers, where they met staff of Mission Road Ministries, who shared with them about this nonprofit that serves over 800 children and adults daily with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The IVLP guests learned about their vocational programs, such as supported employment, job skills, and life skills training.

 

Later, in order to showcase the religious diversity and freedom in San Antonio, our guests visited the Buddhist Temple where they spoke with a monk and various spirtual leaders of this temple.

 

After lunch, the IVLP delegation headed to a meeting with Ms. Ann Helmke, the City of San Antonio’s Community Faith-Based Liaison. Through this meeting, the participants learnt about their unique model of public-private cooperation and how this municipal effort works to make maximum impact on community affairs.

 

That evening, they joined SACIV’s “Membership Reception” event as the guests of honor where they were able to mix and mingle with SACIV’s members and the local community over hor d'oeuvres. 

and plans were made to support international commerce and trade at the border.

The visit to San Antonio was filled with significant meetings and necessary discussions on the role of municipal faith based initiatives and interfaith efforts to address social needs. IVLP guests were also able to explore the role of local religious leaders and their cooperative efforts within the community.  #ExchangeMatters

 

 

 

 

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