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Bridging a divide

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

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Sitting in a circle, warily facing one another, were women representing Christian, Muslim, Jewish, and Hindu traditions. It was a rocky beginning to an interfaith planning committee. The tension was palpable.

More than half an hour into the meeting, the Muslim women hadn't spoken. Their clothing covered all but their folded hands and sullen faces. My efforts as moderator to encourage their input were unsuccessful.

An East-West divide was apparent. The Christian and Jewish women felt comfortable sharing ideas, while the Eastern representatives, including the Hindu woman, drew more silently defensive by the moment.

I'd prayed before the meeting. I'd sought God's guidance earlier, too, in order to identify women who'd be willing to serve for almost a year on this steering committee. The idea for the conference we'd be planning had also been a result of prayer. And I was turning to God again now during the meeting to ask Him to unite us so we could work together happily and productively and to remove whatever inhibited us from working together for the benefit of all people.

God answered me by inspiring me to stop the discussion and ask the Muslim delegation if something was bothering them.

During the moments of silence that followed, I continued to listen for divine direction. I tried to fill the silence with love. I so earnestly wanted to let love fill my heart and soul and mind - to shine through the very pores of my being - so that these women felt love. I wanted everyone there to feel the presence of divine Love, right there with them in the meeting.

Finally, one woman spoke angrily, then another, until they had all voiced their feelings. Like water over a dam, short bursts of words spilled out, revealing their concerns. They felt marginalized and felt that their views would not be respected. The Hindu woman seemed to silently concur.

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