Interfaith dialogue comes to AQ

Story by Zoe Harmon, Staff Writer
Photo Courtesy of PartnersGlobal

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, interfaith means “involving people of different religions.” But those five words carry much more importance than their meaning. They mean something different to everyone who associates with them. The Interfaith movement has been brought to the Aquinas campus, and will be sticking around for quite awhile.

The first major Interfaith event, held on Thursday, October 8, was a presentation by Eboo Patel, founder and director of the Interfaith Youth Core. Patel, who promotes interfaith cooperation and assists college students with bringing the movement to campuses, discussed the importance of an open interfaith community.

One of the most important topics of interfaith is pluralism which, according to Interfaith Intern Allison Garstecki, “is essentially the positive application of diversity. Diversity, in and of religious and philosophical traditions, is the acknowledgement of differences. Pluralism is engaging in meaningful dialogue about that diversity and creating common actions that translate to the common good.”

On November 6-7, five Aquinas students including Garstecki, first-year Lauren Gerich, junior Abigail Lama, sophomore Sean Reamer, and junior Kascha Sanor attended an interfaith training conference held at Grand Valley State University. One of the most passionate students about the interfaith movement is Sanor. She attended a similar conference in Chicago prior to the start of the school year, and then attended the one at GVSU, only to fall in love with interfaith even more.

Sanor noted that the goal of attending the conference was “to create leaders that can further facilitate Interfaith conversations on our campus.” She adds, “this being my second interfaith conference, I was just so inspired to see the learning curve taking place so quickly.”

When it comes to topics such as this one, it is important for students to learn how to be both respectful and understanding in specific situations.
When it comes to Interfaith, Sanor finds it important encourage others to be a part of the discussion. Gerich said that Sanor was the reason she wanted to become more involved with interfaith, and the reason that she chose to attend the conference. She was excited to further educate herself on the interfaith movement because she sees the importance of creating an open environment for all.

Gerich said, “I believe interfaith is important because to create change, justice, and peace in this world, we have to put our differences aside and work for a common goal.”

The primary goal of the interfaith movement is to create open and nonjudgmental space where conversations can be had. In order to do this, the conference attendees shared that it is important to recognize the language being used, and to ensure that it is not generalizing or stereotyping to a group of people. In addition, they said it is important to use “I statements,” because we are first and foremost experts on ourselves. Lastly, they added by sharing our stories, our beliefs, and our faith we can work to open the table for others to share their stories, their beliefs, and their faith.

The group of five also shared that although Aquinas is a proud Dominican Catholic College, we have students, faculty, and staff who come from various faith backgrounds, so it is important that we create an open space for everyone, regardless of their beliefs.

Sanor adds, “If students are looking to get involved with interfaith at AQ, the best thing is just to start a conversation with someone and genuinely listen and respond.”

As the Interfaith intern, Garstecki hopes that interfaith becomes incorporated into everything that happens at Aquinas.
She adds, “Because of our Catholic Dominican roots, interfaith is by nature a part of the four charisms as Aquinas.”

Interfaith has a great importance to the Aquinas community and it is important to recognize and understand the movement’s meaning beyond the dictionary definition.

About the writer…

Zoe Harmon, Staff WriterZoe Harmon is in her final year at Aquinas College, majoring in Sports Management/Business Administration and minoring in Communication. Zoe is a member of the Sports Management Club where she serves on the board as Treasurer. She is also a Disney College Program Alumni after spending 7 months in Orlando. Zoe has a great passion for travel and health/fitness and in her free time, she enjoys hiking adventures, biking, and spending time with her friends and family.


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