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“Living peaceably, religious freedom and the dignity of difference.”

The group sessions of the BYU Religious Freedom conference came to a close Thursday afternoon on June 16. The topics of the session included “living peaceably, religious freedom, and the dignity of difference.”

Panelists for the session included Ron Ahrens, attorney and volunteer director of communication for the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut Metro Area for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; Bishop Victor Brown, senior pastor at Mt. Sinai United Christian Church; Rabbi Diana S. Gerson, associate executive vice president of the New York Board of Rabbis; and Monsignor Kevin Sullivan, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York.

The general theme of the session included a discussion about how we all need to work together to achieve religious freedom.

Ahrens mentioned how it becomes easier to evoke change when people stand together instead of on their own. Brown added the importance not of proselytization when meeting at conferences such as this one, but of unity to make a difference in our individual communities.

Serving others was also a heavily discussed topic in this session.

“We are not called to love people for God; we are called to love people like God,” said Brown.

Gerson said that the first five commandments deal with one’s relationship to God, while the last five deal with one’s relationship to others.

After much discussion about coming together to evoke change on the subject of religious freedom, the moderator, Elizabeth Clark, asked each of the panelists, “What gives you hope?”

Among the answers, Sullivan shared a story of a poor boy outside his building of worship that would collect money from the people as they were leaving the sermon. Instead of taking the money for himself, he would go into the building and put it in the donations jar.

“It is people like that that give me hope.” Sullivan said.

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