Why Interfaith?

3 March, 2023

The greater Elmira-Corning region is fortunate to have a diversity of faiths represented by active congregations.  For fifteen years I have participated on the coordinating committee for STIC and been involved in its public programs and activities. Especially after September 11th, I found a personal need to learn more about Islam and was delighted to meet Imam Zaman Marwat in 2008 when he moved here from Florida with his family to serve our local Muslim community.  STIC was active in advocating for their new mosque construction permit with the Town of Big Flats. 

STIC began in 1995 when Elmira area clergy joined together to present a community interfaith education program called Walking Together, instigated by an act of anti-Semitic graffiti painted on a building housing a Jewish community organization. These clergy, and the many volunteers who staffed the program, had hoped that a broader awareness about the culture of neighbors who follow different spiritual paths could counter future acts of violence.

Iman Zaman Marwat and Sanjayananda, Oct 2022
Iman Zaman Marwat and Sanjayananda, Oct 2022

From that humble beginning, STIC now offers many annual events – for example, the fall Abrahamic Walk where the community is invited to three or more religious sites to walk with someone they do not know and talk about the role that religion plays in their lives. This welcome tradition is now ten-years in the making.  The Abraham Path follows the chronological linkage between the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faith traditions; and in 2022 we visited Bhakti Marga, the new Hindu Ashram in Elmira. 

Over the years we have presented dozens of free educational events bringing lecturers, artists and activists to community audiences each exploring a way that religious history and practice works within contemporary culture.  My association with STIC has been very rewarding because has allowed me to forge friendships with other lay and professional spiritual leaders who I would not have known otherwise.

One often hears in the contemporary blogosphere that “religious difference is what causes wars” – I beg to differ and offer my opinion – “greed and the lust for land ownership is what has caused most of the world’s wars.”  Allowing oneself the opportunity to learn about historic and contemporary religious practice – and to befriend fellow spiritual practitioners – in my opinion is the best way to build community peace and a more healthy future for our descendents.  In this final third of my life – I only want to follow an interfaith-full approach to community building – breaking down the silos that separate us through collective action and an openhearted willingness to learn. 

Jenny Monroe

Disclaimer: This space will feature a diversity of voices and viewpoints held by the individuals speaking as an individual member of STIC, and not for the coalition as a whole.

Interfaith Voices is a forum for individuals to speak out as members of the Southern Tier Interfaith Coalition (STIC). The purpose of this Organization shall be to promote education, understanding and cooperation between different faith groups, without preference or favor to any one denomination or faith; to proactively foster an atmosphere of tolerance, freedom, social justice and peace within our greater community; and to demonstrate where and whenever possible the principle that every human being is imbued with equal Divine worth.