The Importance Of Interfaith

The Importance Of Interfaith

Now more than ever.
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Currently I am in a class about interfaith and bringing the different religious communities in my city together. The goal is to gain a better understanding of one another and build new meaningful relationships within our community. Interfaith is important because we live in a society that shuns the “other,” we disregard what we don’t know and look down on those who don’t share our same beliefs. With the hateful atmosphere that surrounds us more and more every day, this idea becomes crucial.

Now more than ever it is important to attempt to reach across the boundaries of where we feel safe and comfortable, and form bonds with those we maybe don’t understand. There is an immense amount of religious diversity in the United States, and lately we’ve seen the way people of certain faiths are treated based on the actions of a few and the preconceived notions we’ve been conditioned to believe.

People make up their minds about a group of people without even knowing them. What we need to do is gain the knowledge about people of differing religions, once we have the knowledge our attitudes will change, and then we can form meaningful relationships that will change our perspectives forever.

The question then arises: how do we get people to bridge the waters between assumption and hatred, to inquiry and understanding? It takes keeping an open mind about things and those we don’t understand, it takes being open to the opinions and beliefs of others, and it takes the efforts of many. This kind of movement cannot be done by the few, the only way to measure the success of interfaith and pluralism is to gain the support of many.

We need to be respectful of the fact that not everyone will believe the same things as one another, we need to use inclusive language in regards to religion and religious holidays, and we need to remember that the actions of a select number of people do not reflect the group as a whole.

What does interfaith look like? It is people researching and learning what other religions are about; the first step to removing the feeling of the “other” is to understand them. This could also mean visiting different religious gatherings, seeing what their services are like, seeing how they worship, and finding the similarities we all share.

People are drawing lines between one another and picking sides. We are a country split by the most trivial things that could be overlooked by a basic knowledge and understanding of one another. We need to change our attitudes about those that are different than we are and bridge the gap to form crucial bonds. The climate our country is currently in begs us to come together as a community more than ever.

So lets stop blaming entire groups of people for the actions of a few, lets stop shaming things and people that are different than we are, and lets get to know one another. There doesn’t have to be an “us” and a “them,” we don’t have to live that way. Embrace difference and educate yourself on what you don’t understand. You could be missing out on valuable relationships just because of fear of what you don’t know.

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A College Student's Take On Lent 2018

I have spent 16 years in Catholic education and even I am sometimes confused about the true meaning of Lent.
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It is officially time for Lent. Beginning on Wednesday, February 14th (Ash Wednesday), and ending right before Easter Sunday, Christians nation-wide strive to fast, pray and give up chocolate.

As much as I would love to say that last part was sarcastic, can I? How many people solely give up junk food or other personal unhealthy habits for Lent? Is this was Lent is about? Will giving up that Twix bar really help prepare your heart for Easter and make you a better Christian. The answer....not really.

As a college student, I often struggle with maintaining an active faith life. In high school, I went to mass every Sunday with my family and was active in my Parish community. I think most college students agree that life is busy. Maintaining a GPA, applying for jobs and internships, being involved student organizations, maintaining a social life, and work can be complicated enough.

How do we prioritize and include our faith? Lent is a wonderful opportunity to reflect on your faith life and possible re-shuffle your priorities. Take these next 40 days to really contemplate where you are at in life and where you want to go.

The whole point of Lent is sacrifice. Now, this shouldn't involve physical pain but it should make you think of what it was like for Christ to die on the cross and sacrifice for all of us. This being said, there are three main tenants of Lent: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. As a Christian, college student it is easy to misunderstand what each of these means.

Let's start with prayer. Talking to god. Talking. Not requesting. I often find myself only turning to prayer when I need an A on an exam or am nervous about an upcoming event. I realize that I, like so many others, am missing the point of prayer. Personally, this Lent I am striving to pray at least three times a day without making requests. I will strive to truly connect with God and just...talk. I am so lucky and so blessed compared to so many and I want to reconnect with God this Lent by thanking him for this.

Fasting is the next component of Lent. According to Christian tradition, we are to abstain from eating meat on Ash Wednesday and every Friday of Lent. The intention behind fasting is, again, sacrifice. Lent is a time to focus on what, and how much we eat. By abstaining from eating meat on Fridays and giving up other types of food, we can come to respect the vast food excess most of us are lucky to have.

Combining the Lenten season with all of my sustainability courses this semester, I am going to try to limit my meat consumption to one meal a day. This is going to be tough for me as an avid steak and hamburger fan, but I think these next 40 days will make me come to appreciate animals, the environment and my faith on a deeper level.

Almsgiving can be a bit more complicated. Unlike prayer and fasting, not all Christians know what almsgiving is. According to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, almsgiving is the practice of "donating money or goods to the poor and performing other acts of charity."

Let's be real. College students don't have much money to donate to others and, if they do, it ends up at Taco Bell, Chipotle or online shopping. So what does almsgiving look like if you are living on a meager college student's budget?

Time.

It is so easy to give your time. Personally, this Lent I am striving to perform a random act of kindness every single day. This random act could be anything from buying a stranger a smoothie after a workout or just be there for someone who seems sad. I have no clue what the next 40 days have in store for me but I am excited to meet new people and bring Christ to their lives in some small way.

As Lent has just begun, take some time to think about how you want to fast but, more importantly, think about what you can give to others. Giving your time to charity work and to others can be more valuable than monetary donations. This Lenten season, approach the world with more optimism and open your mind to the full extent of your faith. Most importantly, prepare your heart for Easter Sunday (and not just eating chocolate for the first time in 40 days).

Cover Image Credit: Herald Malaysia Online

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