Interfaith group helps students celebrate all of the holidays

by Laura Dillavou

As many students hustle to write one more paper or cram for their last exam before winter break, others are doing homework of a different kind. There are no final tests but something even more challenging to students: opening their minds to a different perspective.

Enter the Interfaith group.

Interfaith has been a part of the Simpson campus for four years and focuses on giving non-Christians a way to celebrate and participate in the religions they practice.

Senior Becca Jackson is the undergraduate assistant of Interfaith Relations at Smith Chapel. Part of her job is to lead the Interfaith group and give it more importance and presence on the Simpson campus.

“In my eyes, our mission is to make others aware of the different religions,” Jackson said. “I’m so interested in things like this – we fight wars over religion. It’s trying to get more people to understand each other instead of just using conventional wisdom.”

This year, Interfaith celebrated Ramadan with a day of feasting and will learn about the African-American holiday tradition of Kwanzaa from senior Isabel Howell-Stephens in collaboration with the Multicultural Student Alliance.

“We have found that food is the best way to get people together,” Jackson said. “This way, we can partake in traditional meals and learn at the same time.”

Senior Amber Woodley has been part of the Interfaith group for three years. In that time, she’s seen the activities reach more people and expand in their opportunities to learn.

“My favorite event was the Holi Day feast,” Woodley said. “It’s an Islamic tradition that celebrates springtime. The event is just very colorful and fun and there is good Indian food to eat.”

The group meets once a week and is open to new members or students wishing to express their own religious backgrounds.

Jackson said as a Christian herself, the experience is both about learning and accepting.

“There needs to be a place on campus where people of different faiths feel comfortable,” Jackson said. “As a Christian, I celebrate my own traditions, but I also do a lot of personal research in order to learn more about the different faiths and their traditions as well.”

Woodley added that the first step Simpson needs to take is accepting the presence and purpose of the group.

“I know there is some controversy over the existence of this group,” Woodley said, “We exist as a support group and a way to promote diversity on campus. Interfaith is meant to foster an atmosphere of understanding.”

Whether it’s understanding the depth of Judaism or the traditions of Islam, this holiday season Interfaith’s goal is to get students to experience and embrace perspectives beyond Christianity.

“Just because it’s Interfaith doesn’t mean it’s not Christian,” Jackson said. “But the goal is to create an awareness of other traditions and faiths and bring those out to the campus.”