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Theyíve demonstrated in the streets, sent letters to state reps and marched on Washington. Now, Portlandís newest peace-action group is ready to call on a higher power.
Shawn Loura, probably best known as the Monument Square Peace Guy, has created an interfaith discussion group that he hopes will eventually launch an "All Faiths Community Center" somewhere in Portland. Loura, a devout Mormon, says the idea for All Faiths came to him one day while flashing the peace sign downtown.
"I heard a statement, I believe it was from the Portland-based Interfaith Seminar," says Loura, "that there cannot be peace in the world until there is peace between religions, and I took that quite literally, through studying history and looking at current events."
Loura, who was raised in a secular home but converted to Mormonism in 1991, hopes the All Faiths group will work for peace by discussing and understanding religious differences. Ten people have already signed on, including a Protestant, two Buddhists, a Roman Catholic and a few Pagans. A Satanist is even considering attending. What common ground could a Satanist and a Christian find? Loura, frankly, isnít really sure, but heís not worried about it.
"First of all, as far as membership is concerned, people have to agree to be non-contentious, and basically agree to disagree," says Loura. "Itís an opportunity to learn about each other."
But just because this is a religious group, donít assume their Sunday meetings will recall the drone of a marathon Catholic mass. Loura plans sports activities, general hanging around, and even a movie night. Maybe King of Kings sandwiched between Hellraiser and The Little Buddha?
Loura hopes to eventually attain nonprofit status for All Faiths and to settle the group into a permanent home in an old church or apartment building. He envisions a multilevel All Faiths Community Center where believers and non-believers can gather to chat, lounge, and organize. For now, All Faiths meets every weekend in membersí homes. A visit to the All Faiths temporary Web site, www.geocities.com/shawn_loura/great_outdoors.html, reveals a bright page plagued with spelling errors and curiously decorated with a dancing monkey, a hummingbird, and what appears to be Cupid drag racing in a convertible. Still, here are the groupís bylaws and mission statement. Volunteerism, community spirit, and general niceness are all encouraged. Sunday best is, of course, optional. Peace Parkís Peace Guy is taking on the messiest subject the world has ever known and, in typical Peace Guy manner, heís pretty chill about it.
"Itís always been a part of human nature to want to feel like they are part of something positive," explains Loura. "For me, personally, spirituality is logical and it also helps one to forget about oneself and to focus on other people and other entities, which can in turn help one to progress and become a better person."
For more information on the All Faiths group, email firstname.lastname@example.org or find him most evenings in Monument Square.
Issue Date: July 18 - 24, 2003
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