New interfaith initiatives beggining at Calvin

Photo+Credit+Meghan+Bogema

Photo Credit Meghan Bogema

This past weekend seven students from Calvin College engaged in the Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) conference along with students of Aquinas, Grand Valley and Hope College at the Grand Valley downtown campus. Intendinging to create a safe place for important conversations about religious diversity, the conference was filled with trusting dialogue and many open ears.

Participants learned how to combat religious bias with questions, how to be better listeners and how to tell their religious stories effectively. They discussed how people can strive to make a pluralistic impact in their communities when they focus on forming relationships, having a positive attitude and increasing their knowledge of one another. The IFYC travels around the nation helping instigate interfaith movements among colleges and universities.

Senior Ellie Hutchison commented on what she gained from the Interfaith Leadership Training, “I gained a better understanding of myself, of my own religious tradition, and identity. I also gained a better framework for how to understand and talk about interfaith issues.”

In regards to Calvin, Hutchison said, “My hope is that there will be more interfaith dialogue and open space on campus to discuss our doubts and questions related to our faith and plurality.”

As of September 2015, Calvin has an interfaith intern position focused on educating and engaging students in interfaith dialogue. One of the interns, senior Meghan Bogema said, “The Grand Rapids community is filled with vibrant interfaith dialogue intertwined in the workplace, schools and service projects. The hope is to get Calvin students eager and interested in wanting to join in on these discussions and relationships that are already happening. The point of interfaith dialogue is in no way to convert someone or to be converted by someone, but instead to respectfully engage in conversation about different faith traditions and beliefs in order to gain a rich and honest understanding.”

The Christian Reformed Church states in their Interfaith Mandate and Engagement document: “Interfaith engagement is about building relationships among people of different faiths in order to work together for the common good because all human beings are created in God’s image. This is accomplished through listening as well as sharing and learning what makes the faith perspective of the participants both similar and different. Such dialogues also provide opportunity for the clear articulation of the Christian faith – giving an ‘account of the hope that is within us.’ The development of building strong and accepting relationships with people of other faiths is essential to the very purpose of interfaith dialogues.”  

This growing interfaith initiative at Calvin has many ways students and faculty can be involved—The next event happening is a winter coat collection and thanksgiving celebration to provide refugees with winter coats. To find more resources about interfaith and events locally and campus-wide visit the Calvin College Interfaith Facebook page.