Currently I am in a class about interfaith and bringing the different religious communities in my city together. The goal is to gain a better understanding of one another and build new meaningful relationships within our community. Interfaith is important because we live in a society that shuns the “other,” we disregard what we don’t know and look down on those who don’t share our same beliefs. With the hateful atmosphere that surrounds us more and more every day, this idea becomes crucial.

Now more than ever it is important to attempt to reach across the boundaries of where we feel safe and comfortable, and form bonds with those we maybe don’t understand. There is an immense amount of religious diversity in the United States, and lately we’ve seen the way people of certain faiths are treated based on the actions of a few and the preconceived notions we’ve been conditioned to believe.

People make up their minds about a group of people without even knowing them. What we need to do is gain the knowledge about people of differing religions, once we have the knowledge our attitudes will change, and then we can form meaningful relationships that will change our perspectives forever.

The question then arises: how do we get people to bridge the waters between assumption and hatred, to inquiry and understanding? It takes keeping an open mind about things and those we don’t understand, it takes being open to the opinions and beliefs of others, and it takes the efforts of many. This kind of movement cannot be done by the few, the only way to measure the success of interfaith and pluralism is to gain the support of many.

We need to be respectful of the fact that not everyone will believe the same things as one another, we need to use inclusive language in regards to religion and religious holidays, and we need to remember that the actions of a select number of people do not reflect the group as a whole.

What does interfaith look like? It is people researching and learning what other religions are about; the first step to removing the feeling of the “other” is to understand them. This could also mean visiting different religious gatherings, seeing what their services are like, seeing how they worship, and finding the similarities we all share.

People are drawing lines between one another and picking sides. We are a country split by the most trivial things that could be overlooked by a basic knowledge and understanding of one another. We need to change our attitudes about those that are different than we are and bridge the gap to form crucial bonds. The climate our country is currently in begs us to come together as a community more than ever.

So lets stop blaming entire groups of people for the actions of a few, lets stop shaming things and people that are different than we are, and lets get to know one another. There doesn’t have to be an “us” and a “them,” we don’t have to live that way. Embrace difference and educate yourself on what you don’t understand. You could be missing out on valuable relationships just because of fear of what you don’t know.