By Arlene Edmonds

Special to The CS&T

ST. DAVIDS – Whenever you bring together different religious traditions and world views, there are bound to be varying perspectives. This was the case when the Race and Ethnicity Dialogue Group held a panel discussion at Eastern University in St. Davids April 20.

Msgr. Michael Carroll, director of the Archdiocese’s Office of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, was among those on the panel that discussed the sensitive topic of how heritage plays a role in interreligious interpretations. The discussion was aired on radio 1210 AM April 23.

On Monday, April 27 Msgr. Carroll joined the other faith leaders in a debriefing after the panel discussion. They reviewed the positive aspects of the discussion, clarified the animated portions of the conversation and set a date for when the next panel discussion will take place.

“The goal of these discussions is to create a covenant on race,” said Msgr. Carroll. “The concept of race in America is ever expanding. We now have to include the new ethnic arrivals like the Asians and those from Latin America. Every time new groups (emigrate) they face struggles, so it’s important to keep these dialogues ongoing. We are not completely done with the covenant because it is still being sketched out. That’s why we are having these conversations.”

The other panelists included Rabbi Jay Stein, senior rabbi of Har Zion Temple in Penn Valley; Imam Muhammad Aladur-Razzaq Richard Miller, head Imam at a masjid in the Germantown section of Philadelphia; and Dr. Wallace Smith, president of the Palmer Theological Seminary.

Msgr. Carroll pointed out that these current panel discussions are an outgrowth of President Barack Obama’s speech in Philadelphia calling for interreligious dialogue among all ethnic groups. After the speech, a steering committee was formed out of Palmer Theological Seminary (formerly Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary) in Wynnewood. Since it is interfaith, Msgr. Carroll was asked to join the committee and represent the Archdiocese in these discussions.

There will be at least three sessions in the coming months. Msgr. Carroll noted that these will likely take place in the city’s ethnically spanerse communities, particularly those with a large population of immigrants.

Though they will be held in the Philadelphia area, it is likely one will take place near the Cheltenham Avenue city line, where there is a large Asian population, and another around the river wards or Olney area where there is a growing Latino population.

“I am always hopeful of what can come out of these discussions,” Msgr. Carroll said on April 27, before the follow-up meeting had taken place. “Of course, we have not debriefed yet. In many ways that is where the real work begins. After you have this open panel then you must come together and discuss faith, race, politics and the initial entries into interreligious dialogue.

“We are just at the entry station. I think the fact that we were able to talk for two hours makes me hopeful. I always feel these (conversations) are productive and that makes me feel very optimistic.”

Arlene Edmonds is a freelance writer and St. Raymond of Penafort parishioner. She may be reached at