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The Comparison Project to host interfaith dialogue on death and dying

October 20, 2016

The Comparison Project will present the third event in its 2016–2017 series on death and dying. A community interfaith dialogue will feature representatives of three different refugee religions in Des Moines. The panel will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 27, at Dunn's Chapel at Iles Funeral Homes, 2121 Grand Ave.

Norma Hirsch, assistant professor of osteopathic medicine at Des Moines University, will moderate. Panelists include Tanka Dhital, president of the Bhutanese Hindu Cultural and Educational Center, Nijaz Valjevcic, imam at Ezan Islamic and Educational Center, and Eugene Kiruhura, pastor of the Swahili-speaking congregation at the Urban Heights Covenant Church.

Among other questions, the panel seeks to explore beliefs about what happens after death and practices concerning what must be done before and after death. Representatives of three different local refugee communities will explore these beliefs and practices from the perspectives of their religious traditions: Bhutanese Hinduism, Bosnian Islam, and Congolese Christianity. The panelists will focus particularly on the tensions between traditional theologies and rituals of death, and the way in which death has increasingly become the domain of medicine and law.

The Comparison Project enacts global philosophy of religion in the local Des Moines community. It is supported by the Drake University Center for the Humanities, Humanities Iowa, the Medbury Fund, the Drake University Principal Financial Group Center for Global Citizenship, the Des Moines Area Religious Council, Cultivating Compassion: The Dr. Richard Deming Foundation, the Slay Fund for Social Justice, and The Comparison Project's special series sponsor for its programming on death and dying, Iles Funeral Homes.

Future events planned by The Comparison Projects include:

  • Tuesday, Nov. 15: Interfaith and Multicultural Fair, 4 to 6 p.m., Olmsted Center.
    An evening of art, entertainment, food, and education featuring 15 Des Moines faith communities—three Jewish synagogues, three Christian churches, three Muslim mosques, two Hindu temples, two Buddhist temples, and two Sikh temples. Each of these communities will be featured in a forthcoming book on the religions of Des Moines; the book, which will be available for pre-order at the fair, is written and produced by The Comparison Project, Drake Community Press and local photographer Bob Blanchard, and will be released in spring 2017. Learn more about this event via Facebook.
  • Thursday, Nov. 17: "Prayers to the Dead and Dying: A Trivium of Sorts to a 'Santa Muerte' Book of Hours." Eduardo Garcia Villada, associate professor of second language acquisition, Drake University. Sussman Theater.*
  • Thursday, Dec. 8. Community Interfaith Dialogue at Iles Funeral Homes' Dunn's Chapel. Moderated by Norma Hirsch, assistant professor of osteopathic medicine at Des Moines University. Panelists from the Vietnamese Buddhist, African Muslim, and Serbian Christian communities.*
  • Thursday, Feb. 9: “Buddhism and the Dilemmas of Death.” Damien Keown, Emeritus Professor of Buddhist Ethics, Goldsmiths College, University of London. Sussman Theater.*
    *These events are part of The Comparison Project's 2016-2017 series on death and dying.