Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Katherine Mateo: Dialogue and Progress

From an early age, I learned the importance of dialogue in order to ameliorate a situation. It is a lesson that is taught to many of us very early on in childhood. Nonetheless, it is not a lesson that is sufficiently applied when dealing with topics such as interfaith work and religious conflict. This class has been one of the most rewarding parts of my career as a student, seeing that it took a conflict which throughout history, has seemed to be ubiquitous to civilization, compacted it to be manageable, and allowed a small group of interested college students to deliberate its multiple facets. From this experience, I leave with increased knowledge of the struggle a pluralistic society faces when dealing with religion and a valuable experience in working in the community.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Priya Patel: Much More Than Just A Class

When I first heard about this class, I knew that it was something I had to be a part of. I loved my freshman year at Penn, but I felt like I wasn’t taking advantage of attending such a diverse college. I also felt like I was reaching the “Sophomore Slump”, a time in which I stopped making new friends and seemed to have settled into a predictable and not too exciting lifestyle that year of college. I wanted to bring back that part of me from high school in which I found it easy to connect with people regardless of their religion on a spiritual level, something I thought was difficult in college. 

I remember thinking on the first day of class that it was amazing how diverse our class was especially in terms of academic interest. This was the first time I was not taking a class because of a college, pre-med, or major requirement. Everyone in this class was taking it because they found the subject interesting, and I have found that throughout the course, everyone’s genuine interest in the material we discussed was so important in maintaining the quality conversations we had. We all came from different backgrounds and had different interests; it was amazing to have that opportunity to hear everyone else’s opinions, experiences, and perspectives on situations. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Zack Tabor - Religious Communities in Cooperation--not just Dialogue

I think that when the class began, I had a rare perspective of interfaith interactions, at least as far as the class is concerned. I think that most of my colleagues joined the course with the community service as their primary focus, and that they expected the interfaith element to be means to that end. In many ways, they were right. I have had a sizeable amount of experience in interfaith work, however, and my experiences had always seemed to suggest something different. I had come to believe that interfaith dialogue always existed at worst as a sort of ‘conference of the religious,’ in which a diverse group of people talked across a room at each other in a very civil, yet disconnected way, and at most, in the ideal, a setting in which individuals of various religious backgrounds come together to really know each other and connect in meaningful ways, and then spread a sort of good faith and understanding outwards in their respective networks. I have had dozens of beautiful experiences such as this, and so I did not feel that a social justice or community action component necessarily had to be a part of an interfaith experience in order for it to work. In many ways, I was right, in that this class was very often a perfect embodiment of everything that I had hoped for on a personal, individual basis from interfaith dialogue.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Meghan Hussey: What's Faith got to do with it? : Reflections on a Semester of Interfaith Action

Religion was something that I knew deep down was an element of my identity that shaped and molded my worldview and my values. It was in college that I really began to own my faith for myself. Church was not something I just did on Sundays because I had to go with my family. Going to Mass and receiving the sacraments was a choice I made because I found that in growing closer to God I could find peace despite the intense pressure of being at an Ivy League school, find direction in my life in times of uncertainty as I have gone through immense changes over the past four years. Though I have not been very involved in explicitly Catholic activities or ministry, I know that many of the choices I have made in my life to be involved with service and social justice work on the local and international levels have been heavily motivated by my faith.

Knowing how important religion has been to me in my own personal journey, I have always been interested in discussing it with my peers.

Thulani Tsabedze - Moving Beyond Tolerance to Understanding

My high school was a community-oriented institution and it always strived to be of great asset to the neighboring communities. As a result, community service was part of the curriculum with a minimum of a hundred hours required in two years for one to be able to graduate. But there was one thing ‘interesting’ about our community service projects – they never included working with churches. In fact, working with churches was not considered community service and didn’t count towards the hours to fulfill this requirement. As a religious fanatic, this has always concerned me. Coming to this class, I was looking forward to the experience of doing community service in religiously diverse community.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Melanie Young: Building Understanding

When I say that I am in a class about interfaith action people’s initial reaction is usually something like “So what is it that you get from taking this class?” My answer is usually “I’ve gotten a whole lot of understanding”. People’s faces almost immediately frown when they find out that my first response to this question is not that it fulfills some type of major or sector requirement. Then I almost immediately try to explain why this idea of building understanding is so important. My knowledge and understanding of why interfaith dialogue/action is important has really developed over the past 12 weeks of this semester.

Mak Hussain - Visions Realized: Flashes of the Future of a Pluralistic American Society

I came to iBelieve looking for the same as I had gotten from my previous interfaith experiences (being both interfaith dialogue and interfaith action). I was very active in interfaith work in high school and community service. For me, interfaith previously presented itself as one of the few opportunities I had in my life to share my faith with others. My faith has always been a big part of my identity, but it’s rare in our society for religion to play a major part of one’s public self-expression. Interfaith was just a chance to share that part of myself with others and to teach them about my faith, with underlying intentions of both stereotype fighting and proselytism. With iBelieve, I was hoping for the same, with the added benefit of community service, which is something that had also been missing recently from my life.
However, upon completing the course, iBelieve has opened my eyes to interfaith and pluralism as immensely beneficial myself as an individual and incredibly important to the development of our society.