Walking through the halls of Benedictine, a Catholic institution, students may find themselves interacting with a person of another faith. Notably, the two most prominent faiths on campus, Catholics and Muslims, came together to engage in an interreligious dialogue Tuesday in Kindlon Atrium.
“The purpose is to foster new relationships, create bridges of understanding between the two different faith traditions, because they are two of the more prominent faiths on campus. I know there is definitely a desire to want to build friendships and understanding between the two,” Campus Minister, Coordinator of Ecumenical and Interfaith Engagement, Kathryn Heidelberger said.
Sitting in a circle, student dialoguers saw the conversation blending into one theme about finding one’s own path to God, when two students both picked passages relating to the concept of heaven.
“I let two people pick passages, and one’s kind of talked about heaven so the either one also picked a passage about heaven, which is usually kind of what we do, we keep it more spontaneous. So as far as similarities go, I was really intrigued to hear people talk about the importance of working out your faith as a way to get to heaven and how that’s a shared value. I was also really impressed by students’ willingness and eagerness to believe and not be intimidated by the topic of heaven and hell because from my own personal experience, those can be really scary things to talk about, and I was just really delighted by the kind of openness and curiosity that people were able to engage with today,” Heidelberger said.
Student, Saad Hazari, who has been studying both faiths, said he gained insight when he listened to others talk about what they understood from each passage in both the Qur’an and Bible.
“You can read the text but you don’t know what people get from it. You can read the same text and I can read the same text, and I can understand a different thing and you can understand a different thing. I think that’s why today was important because from the same text we might have read, we understood different things and we talked about it.”
What matters to Hazari more than which religions are involved in dialogue, is the chance to be able to promote peace and understanding.
“I think it’s important for anyone whether it’s a Catholic-Muslim dialogue, whether it’s a Muslim-Hindu dialogue, it doesn’t matter about the religions. I think to promote peace especially with everything’s that’s happening around the world today, it’s really important for people to step out and speak about their faith and show people what it actually is, because otherwise no one will ever know,” Hazari said.
Another student dialoguer, Claire Boyle, said she found many similarities between the two faiths and also saw everyone’s perspective of how people can be the same.
“Within both the texts of the Bible and Quran, there are a lot of similarities and for example in Catholicism, there’s prayer almsgiving and I know in Islam there is as well, and I think a lot of stories are similar and we can definitely learn something from each faith,” Boyle said.
Benedictine University finds itself with one of the highest number of Muslim students of any Catholic university in the nation according to the Chicago Tribune. A simple Catholic-Muslim dialogue is just one way to start more conversation on campus says Heidelberger, who is working on adopting more inclusive dialogues with other faiths.
“Mosaic is our specifically interfaith group, but they don’t necessarily do dialogue. I will say that next semester, Rita George-Tvrtkovic, she’s a theology professor, she’s teaching a class on interreligious dialogue which I think will be a really good step to expand this conversation to people of other faiths. And my goal is to create an actual interreligious where we model what happens here but open it up to all faith traditions. There’s definitely a hope to make that happen,” Heidelberger said.