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Library offers lessons on world religions

If the downtown Farmington building that houses MN Hindu Milan Mandir looks a lot like an old Lutheran Church, that’s because it is. And while the worship that takes place inside the building these days doesn’t look a lot like the services that used to be held there, Satya Balroop likes to remind people it’s all kind of getting at the same thing.

Balroop, one of the co-founders of the Hindu temple, is one of the panelists taking part in a series of presentations put on by the Dakota County Library system in February and March. The series kicked off Feb. 2 at Lakeville’s Heritage Library with an introduction to the world’s religions. It will come to the Farmington Library from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Feb. 16 with a session on interacting sensitively with people of other faiths. The sessions close out March 1 at the Galaxie Library in Apple Valley.

Heritage Library librarian Luan Phillipich helped organize the series as a response to current events, and after hearing questions from people in reading groups at the library. They would talk about a book that dealt with another religion, and members of the group would mention that they didn’t know much about the faith in question.

Phillipich said the idea was to put together a program that would provide answers people might have trouble finding anywhere else.

“Looking around in current events right now, we thought it was a topic people would be interested in,” Phillipich said. “I think many people just feel this strong need that they want to know more, but they can’t take a college course. There aren’t a lot of other options.”

Phillipich worked with the St. Paul Interfaith Network to find a moderator for the series, and to identify topics.

Issues related to faith and the understanding of other religions took center stage late last year in Rosemount when there was discussion of a mosque opening in the city. Several Rosemount residents and people from nearby communities showed up at a city council meeting to protest, and to argue that bringing a Mosque into the community posed a threat to residents because of terrorism risks.

Balroop hasn’t seen those kinds of fears since moving MN Hindu Milan Mandir from an Eagan garage to its new home in Farmington. The group holds many events that are open to the public, and Balroop has always been eager to welcome non-Hindus, and to explain to them what Hinduism is. Finding people willing to learn hasn’t always been easy. She said she’s looking forward to the panel discussions.

“I think answering these questions can bring out some information to the people,” she said. “It would start dialogues between culture and religion. I think people usually act out through not knowing what other faiths stand for, or what’s the meaning of even a headdress, or the way people dress.”

Phillipich said as Dakota County communities become more diverse, residents are increasingly likely to encounter someone whose faith is different than theirs. She believes it’s important to understand what all of those faiths have to offer.

“We no longer really have the option of choosing to be in our own little world,” she said. “The world is coming to our doorstep.”

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

(651) 460-6606
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