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Program allows interfaith assembly to grieve for Syria

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Franklin College philosophy and religion professor David Carlson understands when helplessness pulls up a chair next to people reading or hearing of atrocities amid the Syrian civil war.

Certainly, he gets it that many people get a what-can-I-possibly-do feeling and want to forget the suffering and go about their day. But he strongly believes that gathering with others to share concern and grief, even thousands of miles away from the horror, keeps people tender-hearted.

That’s part of the very idea of an upcoming event, “Soften Our Hearts.”

Bloomington’s Lisa Morrison, one of the organizers with Carlson, said the 11 a.m. Tuesday event at Columbus’ North Christian Church will draw upon the interest and compassion of Hoosiers toward this human struggle.

It will do that through readings, prayers and music, plus practical ways to give to international agencies helping in Syria.

Carlson, who has organized area peace-oriented vigils as part of the Shoulder to Shoulder in Interfaith Witness movement, is fond of saying that when human nature tells people to get even, they actually should get closer.And share their hurt together.

“I think that does perhaps more than we can fully understand,” Carlson said. “Certainly, it is not spiritually healthy if we close our hearts to something like this. If we do that, we become numb. We become less human.”

In Columbus, interfaith vigils to grieve over tragedy and violence have unfolded occasionally.

Twenty-six people of various faiths gathered near City Hall to in August 2012 to grieve for six victims of shootings at a Sikh temple near Milwaukee.

The Interfaith Forum of Columbus has worked to boost the visibility of religious unity. Members of the forum have said that International Institute for Sustained Dialogue events locally have helped, allowing people of different, race, creeds and colors to build bridges with each other through discussions.

“Interfaith cooperation should be important to all of us of every kind of spirituality,” said Morrison, raised as a Christian but now a Tibetan Buddhist. “There should be a common ground. And part of that should be learning to love others.”

Even worlds away, “we need to make a conscious connection to those who are suffering,” Carlson said.

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