Oklahoma leaders seek religious unity

Thursday, September 25th 2008, 11:29 pm
By: News 9

By Dave Jordan, NEWS 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Oklahoma's leaders in business education and government united Thursday evening under one roof in the name of religion.

It's been said religion is one of those topics that is not discussed because it's often divisive, but one religious group has created a dialogue with other faiths and with measured success.

"We try to give a hand to our Christian and Jewish brothers and sisters to show that we care and we can work together toward the same problems," said Vahap Uysal of the Institute of Interfaith Dialogue.

For the past five years, Uysal has helped organize dinners through the Institute of Interfaith Dialogue. The idea formed out of frustration over perceptions of Muslims as violent, vengeance prone people, fueled by the Sept. 11 attacks and the war in Iraq.

"We have so much more in common that we can build upon than we do in terms of negative relationships that often get highlighted," Edmond Superintendent Dr. David Goin said.

Goin saw the unity first-hand while he, along with other prominent Oklahomans, traveled to Turkey with the Institute.

"We have found that people that we have met on the street to be very friendly, welcoming and hospitable," Goin said.

Oklahoma City Police Chief Bill Citty came to that same conclusion once he traveled overseas. His department has maintained an ongoing dialogue with the Muslim community.

"We need to know what those differences are and we need to know what those similarities are to become closer to the community so we can built that trust," Citty said.

There was a Jewish presence at the meeting Thursday. Rabbi Jeremy Cassius with Hillel Foundation said the closing prayer.

Some of the money raised Thursday night went toward humanitarian aid in Turkey, following a devastating forest fire in that country last year.