Interfaith Exchange participants discuss religious diversity


Junior Maddy Kersten, along with many Simpson faculty and students, traveled to Drake University’s Interfaith Exchange. Kersten discussed why basic religious literacy ought to be included in grade school education. (Photo: Jayde Vogeler/The Simpsonian)

by Temesha Derby, Staff Reporter

INDIANOLA, Iowa — Religious diversity was a hot topic last weekend at Drake College’s Interfaith Exchange.

Simpson students and professors got involved by speaking on panels, engaging in open discussions and attending the events.

Professor Maeve Callan last Friday spoke about religious diversity and had a discussion with Maddy Kersten, a junior, about religious literacy in public schools.

“One of the reasons you can reduce bullying based on religious views is by educating students about different religions and being able to understand those differences,” Kersten said.

Callan noted the importance of religious diversity on college campuses, saying: “Religious diversity is a reality throughout our state, as unappreciated as it sometimes may be, country and world. Too often, without understanding and relationships, diversity causes people to feel afraid.”

Without the understanding, these perceptions can cause mistreatment.

“Greater understanding of and respectful engagement with diversity create a more compassionate, inclusive community in which we can find common ground with each other as we appreciate each other’s differences,” Callan said.

Today’s students are tomorrow’s architects, and students are building the future, Callan said.

Kay Fee found one of the most powerful parts of the exchange was sharing struggles with her faith and coming to a conclusion that she doesn’t believe in God to a room full of strangers.

“It can be pretty scary because you don’t know how people’s perceptions of you will change after you say something like that,” Fee said.

Eboo Patel, who is the founder of the Interfaith Youth Core in Chicago, spoke about the history of Interfaith cooperation in our country.

“He’s got such a great story and gives me a lot of inspiration,” junior Andrea Casaretto said. “I’m thankful to have gotten to experience those things because they motivate me.”

“Our founding fathers participated in the Interfaith dialogue and cooperation long before we did, or long before Interfaith Youth Core started. How cool is that?” Fee said, “There’s a book I want to get after hearing Eboo talk about it. It’s called ‘Thomas Jefferson’s Qur’an: Islam and the Founders.’”

It is fundamental to interfaith awareness to learn how to better understand and interact with people, how to approach diverse and conflicting perspectives both charitably and critically, Callan said.

To continue learning about religious diversity, students can get involved with RLC and Interfaith. This year, Kersten and Fee are the chapel’s two Interfaith interns.

Both have worked hard to schedule events reflecting multiple faith perspectives, including atheists, agnostics and the nonreligious, Callan said.

“It’s also thanks to Interfaith interns that we have the meditation space in the chapel basement,” Callan said.

“We take people to experience other religious traditions firsthand, and we provide opportunities for people who have questions about their faith to come and talk about it,” Fee said.

They also want to stress that Christians can also be involved in Interfaith. The RLC mission is to express the Interfaith expression by side with the Christian expression.

“Heck, even me, an atheist, can be part of Interfaith,” Fee said.

Interfaith is about sharing what inspires you, learning about what inspires others and working together for a greater good, Casaretto said.

“I’m not sure what others took away, but I just hope that they continue to expand their minds and grow into the people they want to be,” she said.

To learn more about Interfaith, email: [email protected] or attend some of the upcoming events.