The world needs more compassion.
That was the unifying message given to and received by 500 women during an interfaith conference Saturday in University Place.
“I think of compassion as an action more than a feeling,” said keynote speaker Cynthia Figge. “It’s a way of being in the world.”
Figge is board chairwoman of Compassionate Action Network, a Seattle-based group that promotes compassion.
The country might seem fractured politically and sequestered by faith, but there is common ground, Figge said.
As an example, she cited a Bellevue area Mormon church that offered Muslim worshippers a place to pray after an arsonist damaged their mosque in January.
The talks and workshops at the one-day conference tapped into the natural collaborative spirit of women despite the lines that separate faiths, Huish said.
“We can all be friends,” Huish said. “There wasn’t a lot of that going on.”
Theology wasn’t the subject of any discussions, she said.
“That seems really weird, at first,” Huish said. “But the purpose here is not to persuade someone to change their faith.”
Instead, the conference allowed people who have different and sometime opposing views to find common ground, she said.
Some of the faiths at the conference included Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists and women with no organized faith.
Some religions are more insular than others. Huish pointed to her own Mormon faith as an example.
“The (Mormon) church takes care of so much of our needs: social, emotional, spiritual,” Huish said. “We don’t have to go outside of that group if we don’t want to. But what a loss if we don’t.”
Because Huish no longer has children at home, she had time to organize the conference, an act of compassion in itself. But she’s hoping younger women with young children at home and busy lives learn they can increase the compassion in their lives as well.
“There are still small ways you can be compassionate, kinder,” Huish said. “You can be a nice person. That contributes to your overall happiness and (that of) other people around you.”
Though only a handful of men were in attendance, the conference wasn’t intended to be anti-male.
“Women are a powerful source in the community,” Huish said. “They can do so much good if they find their own path.”
Stacy Van Wagoner of Tacoma’s Temple Beth El said the conference fits in with the Jewish doctrine of instilling Tikkun olam, or “repair of the world.”
“It’s a way to draw connections and maintain community as well learn about each other and listen to each other with compassion and care,” said Van Wagoner, a volunteer with the conference.
Another participant, Kishwar Feroz of the Islamic Center of Tacoma, staffed an information table, and two members of the center spoke at the forum.
“We feel very connected to the community,” Feroz said. She said she was getting a lot of support from attendees.
One of Feroz’s goals Saturday was to counter the perception that women are subjugated in the Islamic faith.
“That’s not the case,” Feroz said. “In the Islamic faith, God gives power to both men and women. They are complementary to each other.”