Dr. Arthur P. Ciaramicoli’s book, “The Triumph of Diversity,” drew a small but culturally and religiously diverse crowd for a book club.
The event was held at the Islamic Center of Boston in Wayland, Mass., on Saturday, Oct. 23.
“The different religions are not the problem,” said Dr. Ciaramicoli, Ph.D. Psychologist. “Instead, people that bastardize religions create hate and degenerate society.”
The book club was attended by various religious backgrounds, including Jews, Buddhists, Baha’i, and Christians of many denominations.
“I’m writing this book because I am brokenhearted about recent developments in our society,” Dr. Ciaramicoli wrote in the introduction.
“I have always believed that as Americans, we are leaders of the free world,” Dr. Ciaramicoli wrote. “Yet I am saddened by the numbers of Americans who don’t seem to care about others in the world.”
The polarization of American society is of great concern to Dr. Ciaramicoli.
“These days, we are hearing more often a divisive language in America,” Dr. Ciaramicoli said. “Find an enemy to blame, and you will be the leader. Is this the kind of thing that we want to teach our kids?”
The US population constitutes just 5% of the world population, but 31% of the shootings happening worldwide take place in this country, Dr. Ciaramicoli said.
“Suicides rates in 2020 were 30% higher than in 2019,” said Dr. Ciaramicoli. “We are in trouble, and we need to bring people together.”
In his book, Dr. Ciaramicoli discusses the side effects of prejudice: the fear of difference, pathological certainty, and generalization.
“When we are hurt by someone, we start generalizing,” said Dr. Ciaramicoli. “If a woman were to hurt me, then I would start hating all women. If a Polish person hurt me, I would start hating everyone from Poland.”
At the end of the presentation, people were invited to comment on the topic.
“We should have more events like this to bring people together,” said Esther Derisme, a Messianic Jew attending the event. “When I lived in Florida, someone asked me to remove my Jewish symbol from the door. That also happened here in Massachusetts. Prejudice is everywhere.”
“Sometimes it is more difficult to bring this message of unity in our congregations,” said Fr. Carl Chudy, a Catholic missionary priest who attended the event. “I found it easier to dialogue with people of different religions than to speak about dialogue in the Catholic Church.”
The interfaith book club is an initiative created by the Islamic Center of Boston after 9/11.
“We created this project to bring together people from different backgrounds to foster mutual understanding and build community,” said Shaheen Akhtar, member of the Islamic Center of Boston and creator of the initiative.
Before the pandemic, the Interfaith Book Club used to take place once a month in a small group and with a yearly event open to the public, Akhtar said.
“This was our first in-person gathering during the pandemic,” said Akhtar. “We plan to have many more meetings like this one, always following Covid protocols.”
Akhtar, an Indian Muslim, has worked at the Islamic Center of Boston for more than 30 years.
She introduced the event and welcomed the guests quoting this verse from the Quran (49:13), “Behold! We have created you from a single pair of a male and a female and made you into nations and tribes so that you may come to know one another and not that you may despise one another.”
Akhtar concluded her remark with these words, “Islam’s message of unity conveys the divine desire for all humanity in its diversity – to share and grow in the consciousness of a single humanity under one God.”
The Islamic Center of Boston hosts every week reflections on the Quran, the sacred book of Islam, and provides hot meals to people in need through a food pantry service.
Dr. Ciaramicoli also wrote other books, including “The Soulful Leader” in 2019 and “America Reunited” this year.
His long experience as a psychologist brought Dr. Ciaramicoli to get in touch with people of various religions. In “The Triumph of Diversity,” the author analyzes how prejudice is more related to personal wounds than belonging to a specific religion.
“A person that hates a Jew is more likely to hate a Muslim as well,” said Dr. Ciaramicoli. “Why is that? Because that person has become accustomed to hate.”
In all his books, Dr. Ciaramicoli highlights the importance of empathy in our daily relationships to overcome the divisions present in our society.
“Empathy for each other is what brings people together,” said Dr. Ciaramicoli. “And our humanity is the common ground that we should seek to bridge our divide.”