Ninety Rollins students, faculty, administrators, staff, and community leaders gathered recently to discuss how they can overcome barriers to understanding and achieving mutual respect among different faiths. Topics ranged from separation of church and state to why millennials question authority. Participants sat in groups of six to eight, with discussions led by students of different majors, from philosophy to public policy.
“My vision for the event was to engage the students in the search for their own questions related to spirituality and religion,” says Professor of Religion Yudit Greenberg. “Discussions in all my courses focus on the intersections of religion, culture, and society. The many ways that religions impact and shape politics, the environment, gender and sexuality norms, etc.—these are fundamental questions that are at the heart of interfaith dialogues.”
The Rev. Katrina Jenkins, dean of religious life, and Professor of Psychology Sharon Carnahan were also involved in the event. Carnahan felt her students in her Psychology of Religion course would greatly benefit from sharing their perspectives on religion with people outside their classrooms.
Greenberg often takes part in international interfaith dialogues. Experiences like the 2004 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Barcelona, where she brought a group of Rollins students to take part, inspired February’s dialogue.
Sinead McDonald ’19 led one of the dialogues. A double major in public policy and international relations, McDonald felt uneasy leading a discussion about religion but said doing so taught her valuable lessons.
“I think it’s important to understand what other people think and why they do what they do,” McDonald says. “That’s important for [international relations] because religion is an important part of people’s identity.”
Emily Foster ’18 found herself in the opposite position as a dialogue leader. Majoring in both religion and philosophy, she met people new to her discussion topic.
“Because the people in my classes are all philosophy and religion majors,” says Foster, “it was interesting to see what people outside the major and minor thought.”
Greenberg’s objective was to empower students to further their understanding of religion, and she looks forward to continuing this tradition.