Interfaith Understanding Flourishes on Local Campuses
Posted Nov 14, 2016
Vesper Society, rooted in the Lutheran tradition, understands and respects that everyone has their own faith and spiritual traditions that call them to serve. Every day, we link arms with leaders of all faiths and in all communities to create a better future. In the 21st century, we need to add another layer–that of interfaith understanding and interfaith literacy. To serve well in a global and local context, we must understand the traditions and values of others.
For the past four years, Vesper Society has supported Interfaith Allies at California Lutheran University (CLU). Vesper Society extended its interfaith support to Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary (PLTS) in Berkeley when it merged with CLU two years ago.
Last August, representatives of CLU Interfaith Allies had the opportunity to attend the Interfaith Leadership Institute taught at the Interfaith Youth Core conference in Chicago. The three-day event was an opportunity for CLU students to learn from other institutions across the country about their interfaith programs. The activities provided the participants with many examples of how to create a safe space where people from different religious backgrounds can work together for a common cause.
While attending the conference, CLU students joined others to participate in the 50th Anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr’s march to Marquette Park. This celebration sought to show that Rev. King’s fight for equality continues today. Strengthened by an interfaith perspective, this effort is expressed in cross-religious peace efforts. One student shared that, for her, the most memorable aspect of the walk was a reciting of the Quran. In the current atmosphere of Islamophobia, the ability for the Quran to be recited shows the progressive nature of the Interfaith movement. This growing movement is making a change in today’s world.
Through Vesper Society’s support at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, the Holy Hill Interfaith Coalition (HHIC) has taken shape. Born out of an idea for interfaith cooperation, dialogue and friendship, faithful partners have joined together, each bringing their own gifts and perspectives to the table. HHIC’s monthly newsletter and Facebook page promote #HolyHillHappenings around Berkeley, at the Graduate Theological Union, Zaytuna College, and events sponsored by UC Berkeley Interfaith. In a busy and chaotic society, it is incredible what caring and compassionate people from all walks of life and faith traditions can create.
We see and support these interfaith efforts at the monthly Interfaith Kindness and Compassion Meditation, led by a HHIC Steering Committee member and graduate student from the Center for Buddhist Studies at the GTU. Through an interfaith meditation and guided discussion over dinner afterwards, friendships are built and appreciation arises for the human qualities of kindness and compassion found in many religious and wisdom traditions. Kindness, compassion, peace, joy, and forgiveness are important to many in their spiritual lives, and the way this meditation stirs the heart and allows for these beautiful qualities to emerge is life-giving.
A highlight of this fall semester was Eid at the Park, a collaboration of the Holy Hill Interfaith Coalition, Muslim Student Society of Cal Berkeley, and Zaytuna College. The Eid at the Park picnic gave interested students from any faith tradition the opportunity to experience an Islamic holiday, meet new partners in interfaith work, and listen to a lecture on the understanding of sacrifice in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Experiences like this, and many others being planned, illuminate the hopes and dreams of the Holy Hill Interfaith Coalition: relationship building, friendly fellowship, and shared learning among faith and wisdom traditions.
Vesper Society supports these important interfaith programs because we know that the transformation of a community is achievable if its people are approached with respect, hope, passion, and inspiration. By being in service to others, our work can facilitate change and be truly uplifting to people, organizations, and communities.