Living in the 21st century is arguably the best period to live in terms of alliances and unity among groups with distinct backgrounds and identities. Part of this growing uniformity entails the appreciation of various faith and non-faith groups, which is at the heart of the interfaith movement.
People will always be entitled to hold negative attitudes towards other groups, but social norms are swiftly shifting to accommodate for all people. The old, bigoted views of perceiving cultural and religious “others” as terrible people are being shifted to a more educated, enlightened understanding of these “others,” who are increasingly feeling a sense of belonging in our society.
While people in general do not like being told what to do, especially when it conflicts with their existing beliefs, the interfaith movement does not prescribe conformity to another group or person’s ideas. In fact, interfaith understanding isn’t about accepting another individual’s theological arguments, nor is necessarily it about empowering minority worldviews. Rather, interfaith understanding is about respecting other religious worldviews and being supportive of another person’s religious practice, in a way that religious minorities feel comfortable in their practice. Such support is evolving among young, college students, many of whom are proactive in movements on campus such as the Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) movement.
Perhaps the importance of interfaith cooperation is not immediately clear to non-religious people or people who belong to the religious majority. But those who aren’t well acquainted with the interfaith movement would benefit to know that the interfaith movement actively stands for people of various identities, including sexuality, race, and spirituality—even among non-religious groups.
For instance, the IFYC is performing groundbreaking work that facilitates interactions between diverse arrangements of students that improves understandings of misunderstood and even purportedly understood (i.e., mainstream religious groups) groups. Such new forms of unity are at the forefront of destroying myths and barriers that previously hindered interactions between groups with dissimilar views or beliefs.
Benedictine University has shown its support of interfaith engagements on and off campus. But the generation and transmission of the wisdom that stems from interfaith cooperation is of increasing importance, especially in a community that is transparent in its ideas of hospitality. As society becomes more understanding and inclusive, members of the Benedictine University can stand at the forefront to embrace and transmit the interfaith tenants by supporting interfaith engagements on and off campus.
Although it would help, proactive interfaith engagement doesn’t require dedicated participation in dialogue groups or interfaith events. Instead, supporting interfaith work can simply entail an active appreciation of the autonomy of the individual and their personal beliefs, religious or non-religious.