Students Confer on Interfaith
Published: Friday, February 7, 2014
Updated: Friday, February 7, 2014 02:02
The Interfaith Leadership Institute, held Jan. 31 to Feb. 2 in Atlanta, Ga., facilitated dialogue about creating student-run interfaith campaigns on college campuses, with many of the participating campuses lauding Georgetown as a model for interfaith dialogue.
The program, run by the non-profit organization Interfaith Youth Core, supports voicing values by engaging people from different backgrounds and participating in social action.
Throughout the weekend, over 150 students and 50 faculty members gathered in order to develop plans as to how they could implement more of an interfaith presence at their universities. The students were split up into separate groups to facilitate dialogue.
According to attendee Devika Ranjan (SFS ’17), the conference allowed for easy interreligious dialogue.
“Whether religious or nonreligious, we all believe that there is a need for improvement in our community. That can be through helping the homeless or educating about AIDS or refugee rights,” Ranjan said. “No matter where we may be coming from and no matter where our faith lies, there is the need to do good for the community.”
Part of the conference additionally focused on the President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge. This initiative, launched in fall 2011, encourages colleges to promote interfaith communication on campus. It involves a religiously diverse group of students working together to carry out a yearlong service project that addresses a particular need in the community in order to foster an environment of understanding and awareness.
Due to its large interfaith presence, Georgetown University is often used as a model for the program.
“Georgetown is very far ahead of the curve. John Carroll faced religious discrimination in Europe and wanted to create a university where people would feel accepted. We were the first Catholic school to hire a full-time Jewish chaplain, and we were also the first school in the country to hire a full-time imam,” conference attendee and co-president of the Georgetown Interfaith Student Council Aamir Hussain (COL ’14) said.
The Georgetown interfaith presence is highly valued by students on campus.
Trishla Jain (SFS ’15), who attended the conference, discussed how since she arrived on campus, she has seen the university make a concerted effort to better include non-Abrahamic faiths. She cited a time last year when the Hindu Students Association combined with the Catholic Daughters to engage in dialogue.
“You don’t have to be of a faith to participate in interfaith. It can be about values and belief systems,” Jain said.
Those who attended plan to organize and design more interfaith programs on campus, including a workshop on interfaith relationships, with the goal to have even those who do not identify with a particular faith participate.