A pastor, an imam and a Buddhist monk …
This is not the beginning of a humorous tale.
Rather, those are the titles of the leaders who shared the beliefs and customs of their respective faith traditions as part of the 2016 Interfaith Youth Tour.
Coordinated by the Oklahoma Conference of Churches’ Religions United Committee, this year’s tour drew a record crowd on Sept. 25.
The Rev. William Tabbernee, the conference’s executive director, said about 320 youths and their adult advisers preregistered for the event, but the day of the tour, more than 400 people showed up to tour three east metro area houses of worship.
The large group of participants boarded four charter buses and assorted church vans and vehicles to visit East Sixth Street Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Masjid Mu’min Mosque and Vien-Giac Buddhist Temple.
The tour participants were treated to refreshments at each stop, a brief talk by leaders at each house of worship, including
Youths heard from the Rev. Jesse Jackson, senior pastor of East Sixth Street; Arif Abdullah, imam of Masjid Mu’min; and Thay Nguyen Nguyen, a monk at Vien-Giac Buddhist Temple. A question-and-answer time was allotted at each house of worship for visitors who were curious about the different faith traditions represented.
The interfaith tour was started more than seven years ago and has gained in popularity over the years. At each house of worship on the recent tour, leaders expressed surprise, then delight, at the large number of young people and their adult advisers who took their Sunday afternoon to learn more about the faith traditions of their neighbors.
Cathy Benge, and members of her group from First Presbyterian Church of Enid, posed for a picture with Abdullah and others members of his mosque. She said she was participating in the tour as a parent of one of the church youths.
“I think it’s important to take our youth to see different cultures and different faith and diversities so that they can appreciate what we believe but also so that they can appreciate other people for their differences and similarities,” Benge said.
“I think when we learn about others, we see that there are far more similarities than there are differences. By learning about people, we remove that element of fear and there’s a lot more understanding.”