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There was a time when Muslims, Jews and Christians lived side by side in relative harmony for nearly 800 years.

Working together, these faith groups established interreligious "centers of education" in fields such as architecture, physics and philosophy.

It is an era known among historians as the "Golden Age of Spain" -- a span in the Medieval period that ended badly, with the Inquisition, the Roman Catholic Church court that led to the brutal suppression of other faiths.

But area interfaith leaders believe people of faith can take some valuable lessons from that time and apply them now.

To that end, several interfaith leaders have organized "Building Community Together: Muslims, Jews and Christians in Historical Spain and Lessons they Provide for our Multicultural Society Today."

"Our big point with this is not to dwell on past history, but to see how we can learn from that and not end up the way the Golden Age did -- with the Inquisition," said G. Stanford Bratton, co-executive director of the Network of Religious Communities.

The series of talks, sponsored by the network, will run Thursday through Sunday at various locations in Western New York.

The schedule is as follows:

7 p.m. Thursday, Diefendorf Hall, Room 146, University at Buffalo South Campus -- Chris Lowney, scholar, former Jesuit seminarian and author of "Heroic Leadership" and "A Vanished World: Medieval Spain's Golden Age of Enlightenment" (to be published early 2005), will provide overall background for the period as well as insight and lessons for today.

6 p.m. Friday, Temple Beth Am, 4660 Sheridan Drive, Amherst -- Sulayman Nyang, professor of African studies at Howard University, will speak as a Muslim to a Jewish audience. A 6 p.m. Shabbat service will be followed by Nyang's presentation at 7:15 and a question-and-answer session.

6 p.m. Saturday, Islamic Society of the Niagara Frontier, 745 Heim Road, Getzville -- Scott Alexander, professor and director of Muslim-Catholic Studies at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, will focus primarily on Christian-Muslim relations during the period.

4 p.m. Sunday, Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church, 1035 Delaware Ave. -- Raymond P. Scheindlin, professor and director of Medieval Jewish Studies at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City, will speak.

All events are free and open to the public. For more information, call the Network of Religious Communities, 882-4793.


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