Dr. Angha, Co-Director of the International Association of Sufism and The Building Bridges of Understanding Conference Series warmly welcomed the audience, speakers and faith leaders. In addition, Dr. Laura Stivers, Chair of the Religion and Philosophy Department at Dominican University, welcomed the audience to the campus, and introduced the Faith Panel, providing an open forum and opportunity for dynamic dialogue between local Marin organizations, faith leaders and guests.
The Moderator of the Faith Panel was Sensei Joanne Mied, from the Buddhist Temple of Marin and a member of the Building Bridges Program Committee. The panelist presenting the Compassionate Buddhist point of view was Seido Lee de Barros, a Zen Buddhist Priest and Dharma teacher in the lineage of Suzuki Roshi and a member of the Building Bridges Program Committee. The Rev. Richard Helmer, serving his sixth year as Rector of the Church of Our Savior in Mill Valley, offered the perspective within Christianity regarding the way of compassionate outreach, intertwined among poverty. He shared: “May you find ease, safety and be protected. May you find happiness and joy. May you be comforted. We are deeply compassionate by nature. Do your best. Keep making space for others.”
Rev. Dr. Carol Saysette from the Interfaith Counseling Center of the Bay Area and a member of the Building Bridges Program Committee, moderated the Panel of Organizations, presenting service work related to need for compassion. Rev. Paul Gaffney, Chaplain of the Marin Interfaith Street Chaplaincy, spoke of the steady stream of compassionate work with the Marin homeless population. “Show up,” he suggested, “and be present in broken places. Our work involves constant, compassionate rebuilding.” Mary O’Mara of ‘Warm Wishes’ gave an overview and history of the active organization. Warm Wishes donates hundreds of new backpacks to those in need filled with essential items. The backpacks include but are not limited to: warm scarves and gloves. Zara Babitzke with Ambassadors of Hope and Opportunity focused on their work with foster children in particular. She noted that at age 18 all provisions, at every level, stop. AHO provides a safety net for foster youth and they are provided with compassionate outreach when being displaced. AHO stands by the motto: “It takes a village to raise a child.”
The Roundtable Discussions, Reports and “Next Steps” for acts of compassion in Marin County were moderated by Bob Reynolds from the Community Congregational Church of Belvedere and a member of the Building Bridges Program Committee. “Next Steps” included: Partnering with compassionate service groups, encouraging your communities to provide space and resources for homeless youth and adults, establishing ‘rotating’ emergency shelters to provide basic needs such as shelter and food, reach out to homeless individuals and people in need, donate, volunteer, and pay attention to the differing needs of each community.
A public and community meeting was held in Dec. 6th to follow up with the “next step” and invite the public to get involved and help the homeless youth in Marin County. A report will follow later
The day concluded with sacred music presented by Stephen Iverson.