Campus faith groups host religious awareness week
Religious groups on campus will be hosting events this coming week to raise awareness about different religions and bring the Washington University community together under the umbrella of pluralism.
Pluralism Week will start off on Monday with a panel of rabbis to discuss Judaism and the differences between its sects. Tuesday will include an event hosted by the Catholic Student Center (CSC). In addition, Luke Timothy Johnson will give a lecture titled “The Creed: What Christians Believe and Why It Matters.” Wednesday will feature a talk on Islam. Idan Raichel, an Israeli music artist, will perform on Thursday.
This is the first year religious groups have come together for Pluralism Week. Sophomore Hannah Rabinowitz, the organizer of the week, plans to continue the concept into the future.
Rabinowitz started Pluralism Week to educate the University’s campus about different religions.
“The goal is to really educate Wash. U.’s campus in general but also people who are involved in specific religious culture and life on campus [and] to expose people to the cultures of other religions,” Rabinowitz said.
Sophomore Kelly Diabagate, the Muslim Student Association’s (MSA) coordinator of Pluralism Week, wants students to learn more about Islam.
“I want students to learn that Islam is not so different than other religions,” Diabagate said. “We hold the same values and especially when it comes to Judaism and Catholicism, we all have the same roots.”
Another aspect of Pluralism Week is that many different religious groups are working together on campus. According to participants, there have previously been few coordinated activities between the different groups. The planning for the week has involved the Jewish Student Union (JSU), Atma, MSA and the CSC.
More programs will be coordinated by JSU and MSA in the future after this week of activities, according to Rabinowitz.
Rabinowitz said she first wanted to start Pluralism Week to increase religious dialogue on campus.
“Hopefully it will create a more inclusive environment and an environment where there’s more understanding and where people are more comfortable talking about religious issues with one another,” Rabinowitz said.
Diabagate agreed with Rabinowitz.
“I also hope that students will learn that only through respecting each other can we ever achieve some type of peace in the world,” Diabagate said.
Other students said they think that the topic of religious pluralism is not as noticeable as it could be on campus.
“I wouldn’t say there’s not an open dialogue, but I definitely think there is not as much effort put into discussing religious diversity as racial or cultural diversity,” sophomore Catie Gainor said.
Gainor added that she believes students do not discuss their individual religions often.
“I don’t think anyone feels like they can’t talk about their religion, but I don’t think anyone feels especially encouraged to do so either,” Gainor said.
Sophomore Ingold Huang said he also felt that students do not spend much time creating an open religious dialogue on campus.
“It seems to me that…students at Wash. U. in general would be interested in an occasional discussion about religion, faith and philosophy about life, death and an afterlife, but most Wash. U. students are really busy with their studies…and tend to be more interested in finding their careers rather than pondering the mysteries of life and death,” Huang said.
Many students also mention that they know plenty about the monotheistic religions but are lacking knowledge about many polytheistic Eastern religions.
“I feel I know a bit about Judaism since Wash. U. has a populous Jewish community, but otherwise I do not really know that much about other religions,” sophomore Will Stock said.
Rabinowitz said she believes that Pluralism Week is already making a difference.
“[Since future coordinated programming has been discussed,] it’s already opening that dialogue a lot more than it was before we started organizing this event,” Rabinowitz said.
Pluralism Week will conclude with an Interfaith Shabbat Service, a trip to a Hindu temple and mass at the CSC over the weekend.