Speed Dialogue gives a safe haven for serious discussion

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By Natali Bianco, Entertainment Editor

It seems as we go further into the 21st century, our desire for better means of communication is increasing rapidly.  
Cell phones are designed around social media outlets like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.  We are always seeking ways to make our computers faster.  People want to share every small detail of their lives, and they want to be able to do it instantaneously.
But, all too often, lost in the mix of Tweets, Instagrams and status updates, are the relevant and substantial topics.  For some, sharing intimate details about love lives is acceptable, but when it comes to discussing religion or politics, comfort zones are then breached.
Project Interfaith is an initiative in Omaha dedicated to providing a forum for open and respectful learning and interaction about identity, religion, belief and culture.  On Thursday, Jan. 31, Project Interfaith will host their fourth “Speed Dialogue” at the Urban Abbey on 10th and Jackson Streets.
Speed Dialogues are based around the speed dating model.  Members of the community, from many different backgrounds, come together and engage in meaningful conversations about issues of belief, stereotypes, culture and identity.  
“It’s a very fun, laid-back program which gives community members the opportunity to meet new people in a different way,” program coordinator Sierra Pirigyi said.
Participants are given a colored name tag, either red or blue, which determines whether they will remain seated or change tables at each round of dialogue.  For each round, participants get seven minutes to ask and answer a couple of pre-written questions.  Then, a whistle is blown, and everyone changes tables.  
Some of the quesitons Project Interfaith encourages participants to begin with include:
“What is one thing about your religious, spiritual or cultural background that has influenced your life or how you see yourself?”
“What is one stereotype that disturbs you about your religious, spiritual or cultural group?”
“Do you have anyone in your family that is of a different religious, spiritual or cultural background? How does your family handle these differences?”
Participants are quickly asked to dig deep into some of the most important aspects of their lives, which causes the dialogue to take off immediately.
“The hardest part is to get them to stop dialoguing in order to switch partners,” Pirigyi said. “At our first two Speed Dialogues, participants were given five minutes of dialogue before switching partners. We got feedback that five minutes just wasn’t long enough, so we have now upped it to seven minutes with each partner. For some, that still isn’t enough.”
Project Interfaith is inviting people from all walks of life to come participate in the Speed Dialogue. The cost is $5 for students and $10 for the public.  Refreshments will be provided.  
Pre-registration is recommended to guarantee a spot.  You can register at speeddialogue.eventbrite.com until 3pm on Thursday, Jan. 31.

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