Colette M. Jenkins

The Akron Area Interfaith Council is on a mission to move people beyond tolerance to acceptance.

The vehicle being used for that transition is dialogue.

“As we begin to talk with people of different faiths, we realize, ‘Oh, my goodness! We have some things in common.’ That can be the basis for developing friendships. Once we become friends with each other, we can talk about difficult issues in a civil manner and gain a better understanding of each other,” said Surinder Bhardwaj, president of the council. “Sure, there are differences in theology when it comes to different faith groups, but we share some key elements, like peace.”

On Wednesday, the council (in collaboration with the Akron Peace Project) will present an interfaith forum — Finding the Path of Peace — at 7 p.m. at First Congregational Church of Akron, 292 E. Market St. The interactive conversation will feature Dr. Terry Gordon, a retired Akron cardiologist who has championed the push to get automated external defibrillators in schools, police cruisers and other public places nationwide.

Gordon, who was raised in the Jewish faith, embraces all religions.

“Until we accept people for who they are — not tolerating them but accepting them — peace will continue to elude us,” Gordon said. “In order to accept people, we must have understanding and compassion. It is through that compassion and understanding that we find peace.”

Gordon will be joined by a six-member panel representing different faith perspectives on how to find peace.

The panelists are:

•?The Rev. Norman Douglas, a Roman Catholic priest, campus minister and co-founder and executive director of Heart to Heart Communications.

•?The Rev. Ronald J. Fowler, pastor laureate at Arlington Church of God in Akron and an adviser to universities and foundations.

•?Rabbi David Horowitz, rabbi emeritus at Temple Israel in Akron and national president of PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) and a former president of the interfaith council.

•?Abdul Hakeem Najeeullah, an entrepreneur and civil engineer who serves on the board of directors of the Islamic Society of Akron & Kent (ISAK) as the public relations director.

•?The Rev. Dianne Shirey, pastor laureate of The Church in Silver Lake and a founding board member of Heart to Heart Communications.

•?Ratanjit S. Sondhe, known internationally as “Mr. Stress Free,” an author, television producer and public speaker who founded POLY-CARB, Inc., a successful science company that was acquired by Dow Chemicals.

Doors for the forum, which is free and open to the public, will open at 6:30 p.m. It is being presented in conjunction with Akron Peace Week, which was established in 2010 by Zach Freidhof and Bekey Hewit, founders of the Akron Peace Project, an organization dedicated to cultivating nonviolence (

The peace forum is the fourth in a series (Interfaith Connection) developed four years ago by the Akron Area Interfaith Council.

The council, established in 1980, includes representatives from the Baha’i, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Islamic, Jewish and Unitarian Universalist faiths who are committed to promoting freedom of religion, equality and understanding.

For more information, call 330-329-5132 or go to

Colette Jenkins can be reached at 330-996-3731 or She can be followed at