Indiana Wesleyan University’s Jerry Pattengale is joining a panel Friday to foster dialogue, mutual respect and understanding among faiths at the United Nations.

The panel is part of the UN’s Plan of Action to Safeguard Religious Sites, which was sparked by “the tragic terror attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand,” according to a UN press release.

Pattengale, who serves as IWU’s university professor and is also the president of Religion News Service, said he is honored to join the panel. As a religious media professional and scholar, he said his goal is to help people understand the necessity of “walk(ing) together with world religions.”

Though most people in the world belong to one of five major religions (Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism and Hinduism), there are 4,300 different religions in total. With this kind of complexity, Pattengale said there is a lot of misunderstanding between people.

With the panel and the UN’s effort to protect religious sites, Pattengale said he hopes people around the world learn to be amiable to one another, even if they don’t worship in the same way.

“One of the things that is often overlooked is avoidance of the elephant in the room that is the distinct differences between these religions,” Pattengale said.

Though there is not often religious violence in the United States, Pattengale said American can sometimes misunderstand or be scared of other religions.

“We hope that people see the humanness of those involved,” Pattengale said. “Half of the fear is the unknown of another culture. It takes time often, but there is change overtime.”

To better foster understanding locally, Pattengale said he would like to see more education on other religions in history classes and would recommend reading Religion News Service for unbiased coverage of all religions.

“What we do at Religion News Service is not to take positions from a religion standpoint,” Pattengale said. ”Our hallmark is to have a higher religious literacy among people”

The panel discussion is available online at unaoc.org/webcast/ and will be held from 10 a.m. to noon on Friday, Feb. 14.

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