Thought Leader: Valerie Morvan, Faith Alliance of Metro Atlanta (FAMA)
Location: Atlanta, Georgia
Photographer: Jenna Shea Photography
Designer: Monica Kraeger

VALERIE MORVAN SAYS: “Interfaith gently asks us to come outside one’s fear and discomfort and to Respect the Dignity of all people.”

Interfaith involves people of all faiths being welcoming and supportive of each other’s human dignity. We really want to strengthen the capacity of the interfaith organizations, particularly in the South, here in Atlanta, where faith is still really important to people, compared to other places. 

“Try to get to know somebody of another faith. Your world will be so enriched by taking the      time to do that!”

Valerie Morvan describes herself this way, “I’m a 67 year old, white, married, female person. I was raised Christian but decided to become a practicing Buddhist as an adult. Buddhism, by nature, is very open and accommodating of other faiths. I have lived in Atlanta now for 26 years and have been involved in interfaith in a formal way for about 10 years; and before that, informally as director of the Shambhala Meditation Center for 9 years. This center welcomes all people to gather together and learn meditation and other Buddhist traditions. I formally got involved with interfaith, and there was a Buddhist on the Board of Faith Alliance of Metro Atlanta (FAMA). He invited me to come on the Board. So, I am a practicing Buddhist, meditator and teacher.

The Dalai Lama has a very special relationship with Atlanta because he’s associated with Emory. I went to one of the lectures. The panel discussion topic was supposed to be “How have the main religions in the world contributed to conflict in the world?” It was so interesting to me that the panel of only men, who all had very high positions in churches, were unable to really talk about it. I thought, “What an amazing vehicle interfaith would be to start to overcome some of these things at the ground level that create the conflict that is so hard to talk about.” 

I feel my topic of “Respect and Safety for All Faiths” is important in today’s world because there’s a lot of fear of other; and our current political situation seems to be fanning the fire of that fear. Interfaith gently asks us to come outside one’s fear and discomfort, and to respect the dignity of all people. Also, interfaith is important as a vehicle, or an antidote, for the cruelty and violent rhetoric we have around other right now.