Meaningful Conversations Chapel Hill is hosting a free discussion about finding justice in forgiveness at the Chapel Hill Community Center on Wednesday from 7 to 9 p.m.
The group began holding gatherings in Chapel Hill and Carrboro last fall, and this week’s discussion will be their eighth in the series. Other conversations they have held featured topics such as spiritual truth, the unity of world religions and the kind of spiritual values that are desirable in a future society.
Brian Kurzius, a group organizer, says that the conversation is based on the writings of the Bahá’í faith, but the group is non-denominational.
“We have people from all backgrounds, cultures and religions,” Kurzius said. “It’s really designed just to have people come together and share. It’s especially important now, when there’s such a divisive environment in the country, that we create spaces where people feel like they can share their background and their understanding of different issues.”
Meaningful Conversations is an effort by Bahá’ís in many different parts of the country to encourage people in communities to come together, share their perspectives on different topics and build community by getting to know one another, Kurzius said. The topics are chosen by a group of organizers nationally, and each regional group receives a program with quotes from Bahá’í writings that can potentially be used to start discussions.
The program for this week’s conversation on forgiveness includes relevant writings such as, “To nurse a grievance or hatred against another soul is spiritually poisonous to the soul which nurses it, but to strive to see another person as a child of God and, however heinous his deeds, to attempt to overlook his sins for the sake of God, removes bitterness from the soul and both ennobles and strengthens it.”
The brochure also offers conversation guidelines for each meeting that align with Bahá’í teachings, such as valuing everyone’s contribution, expressing views — but keeping an open heart and mind — and maintaining a humble posture of learning.
“When I heard about the activity, I wanted to be a part of it and help out in any way I can, so I joined the team and I really enjoy all the conversations,” said Kathy Krug, a frequent participant who found the group because she is a Bahá’í.
Krug said that many people who come to the gatherings feel inspired by the writings, and many others come because they feel the topic is something vital to what’s going on in the world. The meetings give participants the chance to meet and get to know others who feel the same.
“We had no idea what the response would be, but at the end of every gathering I feel that there’s some kind of power in talking about something that is unifying and uplifting, when you’re all diverse people coming together at one moment in time,” Krug said. “I think that’s something we should be encountering more often.”
Solomon Gibson III, another community participant, agreed that the topics are relevant and generate valuable discussions.
“The group itself seems to be in the zeitgeist these days, probably due to the political nature of our society,” Gibson said. “We often talk about cooperation, and how to best weather what’s going on and continue to improve humanity and get through these turbulent times.”
He said he merits the group for making everyone feel very comfortable sharing and expressing their ideas.
“I give them credit — they have attracted the most diverse group of individuals that I have seen in any such meetings I’ve been to," Gibson said. "That leads to a tendency to discuss many different understandings of the subject matter, usually emotional and spiritual rather than intellectual."
Krug said she is especially looking forward to the diverse viewpoints that will be brought up at this week’s gathering, as the conversation topic is one that’s important to her.
“Thinking about forgiveness and justice together," she said, "I’ve been reflecting and meditating on that since I was 19 and I’m still learning, so I’m really looking forward to the insights people bring to that as I think it’s something we’re always faced with as humans.”