As part of its ongoing effort to foster interfaith collaboration, Knox’s Office of Spiritual Life hosted various events with the Interfaith Amigos over the course of the weekend. The Interfaith Amigos are a group of religious leaders who discuss how faiths can interconnect, made up of Imam Jamal Rahman, Pastor Don Mackenzie and Rabbi Ted Falcon.
Director of Spiritual Life Monica Corsaro has known the Interfaith Amigos for 17 years, having met them when she lived in Seattle. The Amigos gave a presentation on campus last year, and Corsaro brought them back to try to deepen the conversation by holding various services and workshops on interfaith work.
“That was one of the first things I wanted to do as director of Spiritual Life, to set this tenor that I indeed am a director of interfaith with all expressions,” she said.
During the Saturday interfaith dialogue, the Amigos discussed their experiences with ostracization as a result of their faith.
“[I] watched our neighbors put up a fence to shield themselves from the Jews… I’ve had friends who halfway through the year told me they couldn’t come to my house to play anymore, because their parents found out we were Jewish,” Falcon said.
Iman Rahman discussed his youth in Great Britain being attacked by hate groups and facing greater discrimination after the events of 9/11.
“When there is fear and anger because of discrimination, indifference, then society becomes dysfunctional,” Rahman said.
Sophomore Miracle Dahal, who works with the Spiritual Life office, said she connected with the Amigos’ discussion about the legitimacy of different paths of faith.
“That was really something I believe in as well, like everyone has their own path, and it’s just like knowing what everyone does and the good within them,” Dahal said.
The weekend events were open to the Galesburg community, with Corsaro working with local churches and religious leaders to facilitate their presence. Dahal highlighted her enjoyment of this element of the experience.
“It was great, everyone was so friendly. When you’re so busy with campus you barely get to go out and meet the people. They were really welcoming to Knox students,” Dahal said.
Senior Chava Solberg, Hillel Club President, was present at the Friday Shabbat service and the Amigos’ Sunday church service. Solberg said she was very pleased with the display of interfaith relations.
“I thought Rabbi Ted was great and very informative for people who are interested in Judaism, which I really really liked,” Solberg said. “Everyone spoke at services. Everyone spoke at the church service, and I really liked that.”
Spiritual Life is also pushing an interfaith initiative through organizing within the last year the Student Interfaith Council, a group with representatives from various campus faith groups who will mutually work and communicate on campus faith issues.
“So it’s not just me advocating, hey, does the food need to change at Bon Apptit to help accommodate our vegetarian Hindus or our Muslims who eat halal,” Corsaro said.
Members of the Interfaith Council such as senior Julia Porter expressed a wish to see faith play a visible role on campus.
“Not that there needs to be a big focus on spiritual life, but we just want to make it more of a thing by bringing the different groups together,” Porter said.
Porter said topics discussed at the first Interfaith Council meeting included having an interfaith dinner once a month, which would feature panels from different faiths and potentially serving food specific to the culture of the featured faith.
Porter noted educating others about her faith through dialogue as being especially important to her, due to the misconceptions about paganism.
“Paganism is really just a huge umbrella term. I only call myself that for simplicity and because people kind of get an idea of what that is,” Porter said.
As an example of why education about other faiths is important, Porter brought up a recent complaint she heard, that at least one student was upset about the Pagan Club meeting in the old church.
“Which is so discriminatory, and it comes from certain assumptions about different practitioners that are just not true,” Porter said. “Just because we don’t practice certain things or believe in certain things it doesn’t mean we’re going to be disrespectful to the space or we don’t respect faith itself.”
Solberg, who is also on the Interfaith Council, noted that some students may not realize the difficulty students from minority religions face in practicing their faith at Knox. Solberg says Jewish students have had to choose between classes and participating in celebrations like Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
“We would never schedule class on Christmas … for our holidays, we have to choose. Either we attend class or we miss that information and we celebrate our religion,” Solberg said.
As a Hindu student, Dahal is also working to bring more awareness to her faith on campus. She worked on organizing the Hindu Temple trip this weekend to celebrate the Vijayadashami festival holiday, and spoke about Hinduism at the first interfaith dinner this school year.
“There’s always a chance for the community to learn more about every culture” Dahal said. “I feel like it’s the need to respect every culture, rather than to know everything about it.”