July 07, 2016

Interfaith dialogue collection available at library

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A collection of 90 videotaped interfaith dialogues is now available in Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Special Collections Research Center at Morris Library. 

The discussions and interviews are representative of discussions between people of Jewish, Christian, Muslim and other religious faiths that occurred in Carbondale between October 1989 and 2002. The Jewish, Christian and Muslim Conversations collection covers a wide variety of topics, with most still relevant and of interest to people today. 

Listeners can hear individuals of various religions discuss themes including: the Middle East crisis, polygamy, monogamy and celibacy, understanding Islam’s treatment of Jews, if religion is forever doomed to patriarchy, whether religion fosters violence, and “Is there balm in Gilead: Race and Religion?” 

“The collection of interviews offers an opportunity for researchers and religious and cultural history buffs to witness a rare series of community forums that advance interreligious understanding and set a benchmark for local efforts to confront differences with civility and mutual respect,” said Hugh Muldoon, former interfaith director of the Gaia House, where many of the conversations took place. “The dialogues demonstrated how neighbors can get along better when there is greater understanding of deeply held religious convictions.” 

According to Pam Hackbart-Dean, director of the Special Collections Research Center, the purpose of the interfaith dialogues, which still occur in Carbondale, was to increase understanding of and respect for the various religious systems and institutions, in turn facilitating appreciation of the values of other people. She said the interchanges provide a historical perspective on the issues as well as a spotlight on personal interactions as people of different faiths strive for understanding.

Vivian Ugent, an active member of the SIU Women’s Club, former executive director of the Carbondale United Way, and Carbondale Red Cross blood program volunteer coordinator, donated the taped conversations to SIU. She and her husband, Donald Ugent, were involved in making the videotapes. 

The Special Collections Research Center is home to a large and varied collection of unique and rare historical materials of all kinds. The SIU community, scholars and the public may access the materials on the first floor of Morris Library. For more information, visit https://scrc.siu.edu/, 618/453-2516 or email phdean@lib.siu.edu.