Fostering an understanding: Practitioners share stories about their faith

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The Bristol Interfaith Coalition and the City of Bristol Diversity Council held a meeting "To love your neighbor, know your neighbor" at the Bristol Public Library last Wednesday. Guest speakers of different faiths shared information and answered questions. Speakers were from the left, Mandeep Singh, Diana Hossain, Vipul Kashyap, and Carissa Kaur.

To celebrate World Interfaith Harmony Week, the Diversity Council and Interfaith Coalition hosted an informational session about the Muslim, Hindu, and Sikh religions.

The event is a response to a public backlash over a presentation on Islamic faith at Northeast Middle School in 2017 that resulted in the cancellation of the event.

“Bristol went worldwide saying that they couldn’t have a Muslim speaker. Our concern was that parents were calling the school threatening the teacher and principal, so that brought us all together. Something we felt needed to be done,” said Bristol Interfaith Coalition member and Diversity Council chairperson, Jeff Israel.

The guest speakers were Vipul Kashyap who is Hindu; Mandeep Singh and Carissa Kaur who are Sikhs, and Diana Hossain who is Muslim.

Kashyap came to the U.S from India, and developed an understanding of Hinduism in graduate school. Singh is from England, and came to the U.S in 1990 when he was 11 years old. Hossain is from Connecticut, and converted to Islam. Kaur is also a Connecticut native, and has been a Sikh since 2015. Kaur said she was raised in a house that had no religion. She said she became Sikh after doing some digging into India, after her aunt had bought a book about Buddhism.

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In Sikhism, Singh said the basic belief is that “we’re all one. One creed.”

Kashyap said there are five principles of Hinduism. You look inward and evaluate yourself, the law of cause and effect, or karma, there is an underlying reality, there is one truth, although people believe it in different ways, and the whole world is one family, including the plants and animals.

In Islam, Hossain said the philosophy is that all of life is precious.

When asked about any difficulties they’ve faced due to people not understanding their faiths, Singh spoke about a job interview he had when he was in his 20s, and how his father said it might be best for him to change his appearance to have better chance at getting the job. Singh didn’t take his father’s advice, and it turned out that he had met with the president of the company who hired him, and embraced his faith.

Kashyap said he hasn’t experienced any obstacles, and that people have been open, and accommodating. Kaur said she has empathy for people who wear their faith on their sleeve like Singh, and that the Sikh community has made her feel like part of the family.

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