“True community is based on upon equality, mutuality and reciprocity. It affirms the richness of individual diversity as well as the common human ties that bind us together.” – Pauli Murray
The University of Wisconsin is a campus brimming with opportunities — groundbreaking research jobs, cooperative volunteer events and let’s not forget the more than 800 organizations focused on a wide range of political movements, common interests, identities and hobbies.
Many of these organizations and spaces have a focus placed on a variety of beliefs, cultures, political and social views and religious affiliations. Whether we are talking about the Muslim Students Association, The Crossing or UW Hillel, these organizations have created a space for their members to gather and find comfort by surrounding themselves with like-minded individuals.
Yet as three students, each connected to one of these three organizations, we felt something was missing from each of our separate conversations: a dialogue focused on interfaith. A space, not only for one religion, but for all to come together and celebrate the diversity of our faiths.
The need for interfaith cooperation has never been more important. We are living in an era where a great deal of false information is being thrown around about various faith communities. These rumors and false accusations are harmful to the individuals who identify with those communities on this campus. One way to fight these misconceptions is to learn about one another, and to discover there is beauty in being able to express your faith in a multitude of ways. We can connect through our similarities and learn through our differences.
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Here in Madison, students of many different faiths, beliefs and nonreligious affiliations live side by side. We attend the same classes, participate in the same clubs and walk among one another everyday. But our community can only be built on the foundations of inclusivity, trust, respect, openness and friendship. Our different faiths offer us different perspectives on a multitude of issues in our community and ideas on how to solve them.
Nationally and globally, building bridges across different communities is what we need, especially with the disheartening amount of injustice that currently exists. It’s time to stop thinking of global issues as faraway problems not concerning us. Global issues require global cooperation, and together we must stand up to injustice wherever we find it.
In a step toward promoting interfaith understanding on campus, the MSA, Hillel, The Crossing, Red Village Church and Students for Syria will be hosting the first annual UW Interfaith Weekend. The weekend will begin with a dinner this Friday, April 7 at 6:30 p.m. at the Hillel. The dinner will focus on connecting students across different faiths through facilitated table discussions, and aims to create a space to learn more about our different faith communities and backgrounds.
The second event will be a lamb roast on Saturday, April 8 at Edward Kleif Park, from noon to 6 p.m. Both events are free, but a suggested $5 donation will go toward helping refugees and civilians in the Syrian conflict. We are hoping to donate proceeds to different first-responder organizations that save civilians in these dire situations.
Though the Interfaith Weekend started with the three Abrahamic religions, we enthusiastically invite people of all faith backgrounds, all nonfaith backgrounds and nonaffiliated backgrounds to join us in our desire to create an inclusive dialogue surrounding faith.
Yogev Ben-Yitschak, Isha Hammad and Valeria Martinez are members of the UW Hillel, Muslim Student Association and The Crossing, respectively.