Campus events spark interfaith discussions

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By Adam Barry

Interfaith Days

Students and guests follow the maze near the Memorial Chapel as part of a meditation exercise on Oct. 24. Olin Akisoglu/The Mitzpeh

The Interfaith Days, a series of campus events that ran from Oct. 22 to Oct. 24, spurred earnest discussion about religion and spirituality among University of Maryland students.

The events were designed to bring together students from different faiths to discuss spiritual identities and diversity. A partnership between the Memorial Chapel and the university Office of Multicultural Involvement and Community Advocacy (MICA) drove the initiative.

The two groups seek to provide university students with opportunities “to engage in interfaith collaboration, spiritual development and learning,” according to the Memorial Chapel’s website.

Jennifer Olson, MICA’s graduate coordinator for Interfaith Programs and Spiritual Diversity, helped plan and facilitate the week’s events. She said identification of religion as a force for positive change was the underlying theme of the week.

“One thing that was really positive from all of the events was the discussion,” she said. “People seemed to enjoy it and get a lot out of it.”

Olson was pleased with the turnout and discussions at the events, which were guided by leaders from various campus religious organizations.

Oct. 22 featured a catered lunch alongside a guided discussion of religious identity and interfaith justice. On Oct. 23, students gathered for a moderated discussion and screening of the 2008 documentary, “Beyond our Differences,” which featured interviews with prominent religious and secular leaders to explore different issues. The Memorial Chapel hosted a guided session of yogic breathing exercises and meditation on Oct. 24.

As Hillel’s director of service-learning initiatives, Amy Weiss said she felt it was important to attend the discussion about interfaith justice.

“I think that for any faith group, it’s always important for us to collaborate with others and work together for ways to … bring light to other people’s faiths and understand each other better,” Weiss said.

Weiss also said that bringing together various faith groups on the campus made up an important part of the organization’s directives.

“Hillel does not work in isolation, and Jewish students are not in isolation [at Maryland] either,” she said.

Junior Naomi Lieberman, a marketing and information systems double major, attended the Oct. 22 lunch, where she spoke with her peers about justice, politics and the links between the two.

Lieberman, active with various Hillel-related groups on campus like the Terpim Israeli Cultural Group and the Avirah Israeli dance troupe, said she enjoyed that the event brought together students from different faiths, along with their own perspectives.

“I never really thought of my faith as particularly impacting my view on social justice issues because I tend to think of most social justice issues as universal, moral issues across all faiths,” she said. “It was interesting to see how others felt that their religious faiths particularly impacted their views on social justice.”

Future projects for the interfaith initiative include a calendar highlighting different events for religious and interfaith events on campus, along with more interfaith dialogues.

 

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