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Campus faith groups host religious awareness week

| Assignment Editor

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.

  • Lee Martin

    This is wonderful to see. So many problems in this world derive from irrational religious hatred. Irrational religious hatred derives mainly from a lack of understanding.

    I’m not saying that Rabinowitz and her band of disciples can save the world with a mere week of religious discussion, since other problems, such as climate change, do exist. And, well, WashU is not the Middle East.

    But student activism has, historically, always preceded wider movements, and this pluralism week sets an example for the rest of the world to follow. Rabinowitz has, in this respect, created a new religion, that of tolerance and understanding. Perhaps ‘Tolerstanding’ would be a snappier name.

  • Sharon Kibbee

    I am looking forward to the weeks worth of events.Faith is a very important part of us. To understand diversity we must also understand the different faiths/religions to understand each other. Years ago, this was not the case because we were global. Since the dawn travel, phones and the internet; the world has emerged to be the global place we are today. Along with that has come the different cultures and the religions that make up these different cultures and countries. So it seems to follow that fath/religions become as big, if not a bigger part of our diverse world.

  • A few years ago, we in the WashU Cooperative Network were building support for an expanded network of cooperative houses, to foster ecumenical dialogue about religion and spirituality. The Muslim Students Association and Hillel were supporting a kosher/halal house, and we were also working on a Hindu/Christian house, tentatively named the “Sophia House.” Let’s revive this initiative.