Devotees from the Krishna House in Gainesville, Florida shared with and learned from people of other faiths at a “Progressive Dinner” organized by the University of Florida’s Campus Ministry Cooperative this week.
The dinner took place on Monday February 11th, from 6pm to 8:30pm. Participating were about seventy congregation members – many of them young students – as well as pastors from the Catholic, Quaker, LDS and Wesley United Methodist churches, the Jewish campus organization Hillel, and of course Krishna House.
The special twist to the dinner was that participants started in one church, ate part of their meal there, and then walked together to the next church for the next course.
Beginning at Wesley Church, everyone tucked into some appetizers, then broke off into small groups to mingle, discuss their faiths and find common ground.
Moving on to the beautiful St. Augustine Church and Catholic Center, they had salad and continued to share.
“It was nice – people had a lot of questions for us,” says Sruti Sagara Das, Associate Chaplain at the Krishna House. “Many didn’t actually know what the Hare Krishnas are and what Krishna means. One girl, upon learning what Krishna means, said, ‘Oh, how cool is that? There are so many names of God.’ She was appreciating the value of this kind of open dialog.”
Sruti Sagara Das (left) discusses faith in a small group with members of different churches in Gainesville
Sruti Sagara also had the chance to speak with the LDS religious instructor, who has cultivated youth for the past thirty years, about spirituality and how to connect with the youth of one’s church.
Finally at Hillel, Krishna House provided a main course of rice, chickpea subji, and pakoras. Here the discussion was more structured. Participants sat in a large circle, did an ice breaker, shared their names and what faiths they adhered to, and discussed religious freedom.
“We talked about how it’s under attack today, and what we as people of different faiths can do for that cause,” says Sruti Sagara. “We had a healthy, in-depth discussion about it.”
Sruti feels that the dinner was very important because it increased people’s knowledge about other faiths.
Krishna House devotees cooked and served the main course at the Progressive Dinner
“Oftentimes, at least at UF, people are scared of particular churches, including us, because they don’t know about them and think they’re a cult or something,” he says. “So just to have that knowledge is good in general.”
For devotees – especially new ones – he explains, the meeting was beneficial because it encouraged broadmindedness rather than fanaticism.
“Also, we were able to share who we are, show that we are just regular folks but that we have strong faith, and share that faith in a very healthy manner without pushing it.”
Krishna House devotee Animesh Adhikari, who is a graphic design student at the nearby Santa Fe Community College, also felt that the meeting was very positive.
Congregation members and pastors of different faiths gather to discuss religious freedom
“Currently, the general public’s mood towards religion is quite toxic,” he says. “Based on my various interactions at the Progressive Dinner, I find it pivotal that such discussions take place and that they are publicized. When people see how religious organizations are working together and finding common ground, they will start having a positive outlook towards religion. Just this can slowly build their piety and favorability to Krishna consciousness.”
Next on the cards, the Campus Ministry Cooperative plans to organize a conference on religious freedom with panel discussions and guest speakers. All the different faiths represented in the Cooperative will participate, and the conference will be open to the public.
Until then, the CMC, which is under the banner of Multicultural and Diversity Affairs at UF, will cointinue to meet monthly.[ florida ] [ gainesville ] [ house ] [ interfaith ] [ krishna ]