Know Thy Neighbor: Cultivating a Community of Respect

Presenter: Dr. Jeffery Long, Professor of Religion and Asian Studies, Elizabethtown College

March 19, 2018

Differences can divide a community without a willingness to understand, accept, and welcome one another.

Dr. Jeffery Long, Professor of Religion and Asian Studies at Elizabethtown College was the presenter at the March Hershey All Things Diversity session held at the Hershey Story. Dr. Long encourages us to “know thy neighbor.”

He explains that intolerance is a form of violence. “Differences are not a reason to treat others badly.” He quoted Thomas Jefferson and emphasizes that someone believing differently from one’s self does not hurt anything. “Why do we care if others believe differently,” he asked.

Conflict is a serious issue that arises when there is a lack of understanding. He tells us to talk to members of the community who are different from us. Ask them questions in a friendly, non-opinionated manner to gain knowledge. He said, “If you gather 20 people together from one congregation, you’ll get 20 different views of the same religion.” He explained that religious labels are an insufficient representation to how someone feels and that we should not generalize. He said that you must interact and ask questions to understand other’s beliefs. He adds, “Remember what people tell us, we have to accept it, and don’t try to prove them wrong.”

He discussed various religions and his experiences in the local Hindu community and talked about how many religions are closely related. He tells us that it’s not enough to tolerate others. Being tolerated does not foster healthy interactions. He advises us to have acceptance, to welcome others, and to create a happy community understanding one another. “Extend a hand of love.”

Dr. Long received his doctoral degree from the University of Chicago and became a Professor of Religion and Asian Studies at Elizabethtown College in 2000. He is the author of A Vision for Hinduism, Jainism: An Introduction, and The Historical Dictionary of Hinduism. His department at Elizabethtown College has recently pioneered the nation’s first major in Interfaith Leadership Studies. He is a scholar of religion, and has traveled extensively to India, Japan, and Europe.