A place for people of faith and no-faith to explore shared values, build respect and mutually inspiring relationships, and pursue common action for the common good

Archive for October, 2010|Monthly archive page

The bigger picture

In Better Together, Faith, Interfaith on October 30, 2010 at 6:04 pm

Members of the 2010-2011 IFYC Fellows Alliance cohort explain why they care about Interfaith Cooperation.

Why I do Interfaith: Rae

In Elmhurst College, Faith, What If...? on October 19, 2010 at 9:45 pm

I was 5, maybe 6, and asked my friend Claire, Claire Smith, if she wanted to play communion.

I grew up spending up in a devoutly Christian home- my mom is now a pastor, to give you an idea of how active we were in the Church. So, as a 5 year old- that age when kids play mirrors the jobs they see around them- I asked Claire to play communion. But her answer caught me off guard: Claire asked me “what’s communion?” when I told her it was part of church she surprised me more by saying she didn’t go to church. I was confounded, I don’t think I’d ever had a friend who didn’t know what communion was!

I don’t remember the rest of my interaction with Claire, but I do remember asking my mom why, Claire didn’t want to play communion, why she didn’t know what it was, and why Claire didn’t go to church. My mom answered my questions respectfully, explaining concepts of paganism at a 5 year old level, but then, I remember, my mom said we should invite Claire’s family to dinner some night.

At dinner with the Smiths I was able to ask all my questions about what they believed and Claire was able to ask my family her questions about what we believed- all these questions, and beliefs being shared in a safe space.

Engaging in conversations like the one I had as a 5 year old with Claire and her family…that’s why I care about interfaith cooperation- because when we come together with different stories and different beliefs around the things we hold true- service, justice, care for creation- we can then get past what we’ve been told about people of other faiths, and we can recognize them over dinner as people with stories and valuable beliefs.

Coming to college I began to engage people of traditions different than my own on a regular basis- in conversation, service, class, fellowship, and activism. Through this, I have experienced the many values people live out on the Elmhurst College campus. I am daily inspired by the work that happens here- through the LENS walk, our orientation service project, Habitat for Humanity’s work, our dedication to service-learning and the many many many many service projects our students engage in each year with the Office of Leadership and Civic Engagement as well as student organizations like Spiritual Life Council and APO Service Fraternity. We are a campus that exhibits we care- but what if the many groups of people who care- Catholic Students, Muslim Students, Campus Crusade, Secular Students, UCC Students…any student organization or identity group (that may or may not be organized)- came together around a shared value and worked toward the common good?

If this happens, I see relationships being built, questions being asked (“why doesn’t s/he believe what I do?” “what does s/he believe?” why does s/he believe that?” “Why haven’t we been able to come together before?” “what if we continue to work on projects together, even though our belief traditions conflict?”), and real social change occurring.


A letter to the Elmhurst College Community

In Better Together, Elmhurst College, Social Justice, What If...? on October 16, 2010 at 7:38 pm

Notes: a version of this letter has been written as a letter to the editor of The Leader. Also, please feel free to comment and answer the questions I pose.

An Open Letter To The Campus Community:

This letter is a response to the religiously motivated graffiti found on October 8 in a Daniels Hall bathroom stall. Last week, the campus received an email from Campus Security reporting that a staff member found a threatening message directed toward Muslims.

Upon hearing about this incident, I was hurt- not just that another act of hate has been committed against our Elmhurst College community- but that there has been no reaction on campus. No buzz in the library café, no mention in around the fireplace, no talk among friends about our reactions. I fear our campus is becoming apathetic to hate. Each time someone attacks a part of our community we rise up with support and push back against ignorance and hate.

But I fear we are losing energy. How does this happen? How can we cease standing up for our values- as individuals and as a community?

We all have the power to affect the social climate of our community. It may feel sometimes as though the haters hold all the power, but let us remember that those of us who see power in respect and affirmation are greater in number and have just as much passion for our convictions. It is the responsibility of us all to continue to condemn incidents such as these and to fight every day to educate each other about the importance of community and respect for diversity and pluralism.

I have seen our community come together for positive social change: I had the great honor this year of working with more than 540 first year students during orientation to pack nearly 120,000 meals to provide nutrition and hope to people around the world who are suffer from malnutrition. While packing these meals, I had a wonderful conversation with a fellow student, Savannah. Savannah shared her incredible dream of returning to a community like the one in which she grew up and making it a safer place for all of the people who live there. Savannah showed me that day, in her each word and the passion in her voice, that safe community and acceptance of all people is something she values. And I do not think Savannah is the only one in our community who shares this value.

So, I ask you, fellow members of the Elmhurst College community: what do we value and how do we communicate that? Are we a community which values ignorance and hate? Or are we a community which values affirmation of plural identities and respect? What if we act on our values in our daily lives? What would our community look like then?