Interfaith Allies Program is revamped

Jaclyn Holtz, Reporter

Although the core message and values of the group will remain the same, the California Lutheran University’s Interfaith Allies have new tools to offer students.

“I am working to create a pluralist society on campus and provide spaces for individuals of different worldviews to come together and create change and take action for the betterment of the community,” Melissa Dennin, Interfaith Allies intern, said.

The Interfaith Allies are an on campus group composed of students, faculty and staff. According to the Cal Lutheran community service center website, the goal of the group is to encourage cooperation and growth between people in groups of faith and non-faith throughout the Cal Lutheran campus. The group is designed to help students grow in knowledge about their own faith and the faiths of their peers. 

“One of the events that we are pushing right now is our Interfaith Allies workshop series,” Madeline Liberti, coordinator for community service, said. “Dr. [Rahuldeep] Gill started a really awesome training for faculty and staff and so we wanted to have an opportunity for students to also get those basic skills.”

The workshop series is separated into two levels. The first level, titled “Introduction to Interfaith Cooperation,” was held on Feb. 10 and 18. The second level of the series, titled “Interfaith Leadership in Action” is scheduled for March 4 from 6-7 p.m., and March 24 from 11:20 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. In order to attend the second level you must have the first level of the training completed. 

The goal of the workshops is to help students gain skills that will allow them to deal with conflicts and disagreements in any situation. In addition, it is a leadership opportunity for those looking to grow their knowledge about other faiths and develop a sense of respect, unity and understanding, Liberti said. 

 “We were feeling like there was a disconnect, we would get someone to a program, but were not focusing on the fundamental concepts,” Liberti said. 

Interfaith Allies began with a small group of students, Professor Colleen Windham-Hughes and Professor Rahuldeep Singh Gill, and was funded by the Vesper Society. The founding students of the group had the opportunity to go to Interfaith Leadership Institute in Philadelphia and Los Angeles. These events were hosted by Interfaith Youth Core, which is a national movement that encourages interfaith cooperation. Additionally, these students met weekly in order to coordinate on campus events that promoted shared service, appreciative knowledge and the common good, Windham-Hughes said. 

Some of the events put on by Interfaith Allies annually include the Interfaith Holiday Dinner, Fireside Chats and Courageous Conversations, Better Together Day, interfaith service days and a hunger banquet. 

“Our events are intended for everyone on this campus and have a goal to develop a culture on this campus where we can respectfully have discussions about our worldviews and build a stronger community based on these discussions,” Dennin said. 

The allies events are aimed toward inclusion of diversity on campus and providing students with the necessary tools in order to combat any issues they may face, Liberti said. 

“We have to practice working together and living together. Learning the beauty and goodness of different traditions, as well as the challenges they face, is essential to students in every major,” Windham-Hughes said.