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The Colgate Maroon-News

The Oldest College Weekly in America. Founded 1868.

The Colgate Maroon-News

The Oldest College Weekly in America. Founded 1868.

The Colgate Maroon-News

Interfaith Creativity in Justice Dialogue Unites Religious Communities on Campus

Printed with permission of Emma Hanlon

The Africana, Latin, Asian and Native American (ALANA) Cultural Center hosted their first Interfaith Creativity in Justice Dialogue in conjunction with numerous religious, spiritual and non-religious groups on campus on Friday, Jan. 26. Students from the Colgate University Newman Community, Muslim Student Association, Hindu Student Association, Secular Association of Skeptical Students, Colgate Christian Fellowship and Colgate Christian Athletes were present at the event.

The Interfaith Creativity in Justice Dialogue aimed to encourage participants of various religious, spiritual and non-religious backgrounds to celebrate innovation and unity through conversation. This event acted as the precursor to the ALANA Cultural Center’s Social Justice Summit and Martin Luther King Week events. MLK Week celebrations are an established tradition on Colgate’s campus, organized by the ALANA Cultural Center. This year, the center has begun working alongside the Office of the Chaplains in their MLK Sunday programs and other events throughout the year.

Esther Rosbrook, Director of the ALANA Cultural Center, explained the goals of the event.

“The event is strategically designed to establish an environment conducive to open and meaningful conversations concerning shared values, beliefs and experiences by orchestrating an interfaith unity dinner that unites students, faculty, staff and Hamilton community members,” Rosbrook said. “The overarching mission is to catalyze a profound sense of community, erode cultural divides and celebrate diversity’s immense richness in our broader community, echoing the principles of unity and alliance championed by the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.”

Attendees enjoyed dinner from Royal India Grill and discussed several topics concerning the communication and interactions between interfaith groups on Colgate University’s campus and throughout the world.

Harshitha Talasila, a sophomore and cultural liaison of the Hindu Student Association, described her involvement in the dialogue.

“I was meeting with [Rosbrook] about planning an MLK event — the Unity Dinner — when she mentioned that ALANA was planning on having an Interfaith Creativity in Justice Dialogue,” Talasila said. “It was going to be the first time they hosted this event and she asked if I was interested in being a part of this dialogue […]. It was amazing being able to work with ALANA and leaders from religious and non-religious groups to develop the event and then be able to execute it.”

Student facilitators began the event by establishing ground rules to create a safe environment for a deeply personal conversation to occur. Facilitators emphasized the importance of participating without holding on to preconceived notions, having respect, being willing to listen and allowing all individuals to participate. In order to become exposed to new perspectives, participants sat with individuals that they hadn’t met before.

Participants discussed the importance of interfaith dialogue in social justice, unity despite differences and building bridges. Groups were facilitated by student volunteers who allowed an organic conversation to occur on these topics.

First-year Nathan Molloy described what the event meant to him.

“I thought the interfaith dialogue was a great opportunity to hear from the other religious groups on campus as we work toward building a close community both on campus and in our world,” Molloy said.

In group discussions, students were interested in how productive interfaith dialogue can build community and allow us to make meaningful contributions to the world. Among many other ideas, the importance of making connections stood out. Participants explained that even the simple act of physically bringing people together will naturally allow alternate points of view to appear.

Each table at the event was allowed to discuss topics that interested them, which fostered a unique experience for each student and staff member attending the event. Conversations were shaped by the ideas and experiences of those who participated in them.

When Rosbrook was asked about her feelings surrounding the success of this new event, she expressed immense pride in the conversations that occurred throughout it.

“I believe that we had a very successful Interfaith Unity Dialogue event,” Rosbrook said. “Throughout the event, attendees sitting in different groups and seating arrangements sought to comprehend individual experiences, ranging from those associated with major religious groups on campus — fortified by University support — to those linked with smaller communities.”

Students are warmly welcomed to get involved with ALANA Cultural Center to engage with over one hundred events that they host every year. To get involved, contact [email protected].

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