SALT LAKE CITY — Love is the answer to bullying, a noted expert on educational climate told members of the Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable during its annual Interfaith Month breakfast meeting Thursday morning.
“I know that sounds simplistic, but it works,” said David A. Parker, a professor of teacher education and associate director of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Center for Community of Caring Institute at the University of Utah. “We can talk about a lot of other things, but ultimately love is the thing that is going to make a difference.”
Parker said he wanted to speak to the Interfaith Roundtable, an 11-year-old organization that includes representatives from almost every faith group in the Salt Lake area, because of Utah’s unique faith climate.
“Utah is faith-driven,” he said after his presentation. “It is a community of believers. One of the best ways to reach out to people in Utah is through their faith, whatever that may be. And so, I’m hoping that those who were here will all go back to their respective faith communities and talk about this issue. The more we talk about it, the better our chances of dealing with it.”
Interfaith Roundtable Chairman Alan Bachman agreed, expressing his desire “to harness the shared power of our faith on this issue.”
“We can’t be insular about this,” Bachman said. “Our goal is to have people working with people, faith working with faith, in order to make a difference in the lives of people in our community.”
That kind of broad cooperative effort is what will help us to change the culture of schools and communities, Parker said.
“And we’re moving quickly in that direction,” he said. “A growing number of people throughout the state are becoming more and more concerned about this issue.”
And they are acting on it, Parker said, referring to a state-wide coalition of educators, mental health professionals and representatives of the business and faith communities who are coming together to “do their part collectively, all together.”
“This kind of coalition hasn’t been tried before,” Parker said of the group, which had its first meeting Wednesday. “We’re about to do something that has not been done before. We’re putting together a coalition from different walks of life to have a sustained impact on this issue.”
But even this unique coalition isn’t the final answer to the problem of bullying, which Parker said exists in our schools, our churches, our neighborhoods and even in our workplaces.
“It happens everywhere, and we need to talk about it,” he said. “We can’t pretend it doesn’t happen here in Utah, in our schools, or in our churches, or in our communities. We have to remove the ego. It’s here. It happens all around us. We have to talk about it and find ways to work together to address it, and overcome it with love.”