My Interfaith Stepping Stones

Posted: February 27, 2011 in Uncategorized

This article was written by Jenn Meadows, a freshman at the University of Indianapolis.  As well as being integrally involved with PRSSA and UMSA, Jenn is also a member of the Interfaith Forum.

Hello, my name is Jenn and as a freshman at the University of Indianapolis, I find my involvement in Interfaith Forum very important because on campus we are exposed to many people of different beliefs and cultures. I am personally a United Methodist, but I have always had an interest in world religions. In my church, we had a foreign-exchange student from Thailand that attended our services. Through Fhang, I learned about the Buddhist way of practice. Coming from a small town, I had never known any other religion outside of Christianity. Over my junior year, I learned a lot from Fhang. I began to respect my own culture and religion. I also began to see the importance of how crucial it was for all humans, no matter what their race or religion, to come together to serve a common cause. Fhang and I did many community projects together through my church and other local community organizations. Coming to UIndy, I was thrilled to see that this opportunity existed for me to participate in. No matter what religion you are, we are all human. With technological advances, our world is becoming even smaller. Therefore, we are more connected then we have ever been before. This can help our generation move forward in the wake of new challenges. We can connect across the board easily. With opportunities such as Interfaith Forum, we have the chance to put aside our religious differences and strive for our common goal of goodwill for human kind. Interfaith is a stepping stone for all to learn about our differences and embrace one another and move forward to really making a difference in this world together.

Different Faiths, United Week

Posted: February 4, 2011 in Uncategorized

This blog post was written by Anu Kalpathi, a Hindu student from India in the graduate physical therapy program at UIndy.

I was asked to write about my one week experience as a volunteer for the Appalachia Service Project at Jonesville, VA, quite some time back. I might have sat to pen it down only today, but I have been thinking about it for days together, every spare moment – trying to recapture that golden week, that was lush with beautiful memories, laughter, the beginning of many friendships and so much more.

I remember the day we left –

Half past six on a dark Sunday morning found me standing on my porch sipping hot coffee, my  numb fingers, wrapped around the warm mug, trying to steal some warmth and willing myself to be calm my qualms. “It won’t be that bad”, I consoled myself. I was excited about the trip, about its purpose, and that I finally felt like I was doing something meaningful. But somehow, that was not sufficient to allay my fears and anxiety about the unknown.

However, as soon as I met the other students and we began our journey, I started enjoying myself. The week that ensued was truly blissful. Our team got the opportunity of working on the construction of a wheelchair ramp for a lovely couple. George and Debra had a nice home, situated on a small hill. Do not mistake them for a lonely couple, though. They had plenty of company, in the form of 5 puppies, a spider, a horse, hens, even a flying squirrel! But what really touched me was that, almost all these animals had been left stranded without a home and would have been orphaned if not for these two amazing people. George and Debra may not be rich enough to afford a big home and the luxuries that surround it, but they definitely had big and warm hearts to make a home for all that wandered in, literally. There is much to learn from this couple, who were so hospitable and welcoming, that we felt right at home.

Something that I still reflect upon with wonder is the camaraderie that we all developed and shared with one another. We were but strangers who had met a week before, but by the end of the week, there was a very strong bond which united all of us.

There was something else that had an impact on me on this trip – the devotion service and prayers every morning and night. I am a Hindu, and I found myself drawing several parallels between Christianity and Hinduism. I was driven to think in depth after this. Does it matter what faith we are from? What race or culture we belong to? If we are white, black or brown? What brought such a diverse group together during that one week in the Appalachians was not that we were from the University, or that we were students. It was the fact that, we all had faith – albeit different. We had faith and the belief that we could make a difference; the want to do something good and to try and make someone’s life better.  I am sure all of us there had different reasons for being there, different motivations driving us – ultimately, it is the work we do that counts and makes a difference.

Anu Kalpathi

 

 

Dear Potential World-Changer

Posted: February 2, 2011 in Uncategorized

Dear Potential World-Changer,

When the comedian Brian O’Sullivan visited the University of Indianapolis, one of the greatest musical hits that he played during the night was called “I’m a WASP,” a parody of the famous Black Eyed Peas song called “Imma Be.”  Throughout the entirety of the song, O’Sullivan listed many of the stereotypes involving WASPs (White Anglo-Saxon Protestants), the most populous group in the United States.  While the majority of Americans are still WASPs, there is an increasing diversity, both racial and religious, that one cannot ignore.  When 48% of Los Angeles County is Hispanic and millions of Muslims inhabit this country, WASPs are not alone anymore.

I am a male WASP.  From prior understandings of power in America, I would be at the plateau.  While gender equality is slowly becoming a reality, the pay scale between men and women continues in inequality.  While racial equality is slowly becoming a reality, prejudice and stereotypes continue to cause discrimination.  While I rarely contemplate the nature of my privileges, I will not deny the fact that some of my success may be attributed to my status as a male WASP.  Frankly, I have never known the sting of discrimination based on my identity.

I recently returned from my last training conference with Interfaith Youth Core.  For the second time, I loved the experience.  My co-workers are AMAZING!!!  To use an Indiana euphemism, I had too many meaningful conversation than I could shake a stick at.  After attending the conference, I feel refreshed and re-energized to continue the interfaith work at the University of Indianapolis.

One of the exercises near the end of the conference asked everyone to write a letter that showed the impact of the conference on their life and their plan for the next few months.  Upon reflection, I noticed an important point that I had never realized before.  I am a male WASP.  None of the people in my cohort are.  The Fellows Alliance is comprised of 16 women and 3 men.  The majority of the group is not Protestant.  Why had I never noticed before?  I soon realized that I never felt uncomfortable.  During the entire time that I met my co-workers in Chicago, we became friends, and our racial and religious background never divided us.  I was in the minority for the first time in my life, and I was completely clueless.

Can you imagine a world like the community that I found in the Fellows Alliance?  Does it not sound like the world that Martin Luther King Jr. envisioned?  Does it not sound like the world that Mahatma Gandhi envisioned?  Does it not sound like the world that Eboo Patel envisions?  After meeting my co-workers, and friends, through the Interfaith Youth Core, I know that I will never be the same.  At the University of Indianapolis, help my fellow interfaith leaders and I create this type of community, so that we can shine as a city on a hill for the world to strive for.

 

Your friend,

Mark Wolfe

Interfaith Youth Core Fellows Alliance 2010-2011

President of the Interfaith Forum

Claire Hawkins

Posted: January 27, 2011 in Uncategorized

Watch as sophomore student Claire Hawkins describes her view on interfaith.

Molly Zhang

Posted: January 27, 2011 in Uncategorized

Watch as Chinese student Molly Zhang describes her perspective on interfaith at UIndy.

Interfaith in Appalachia

Posted: January 18, 2011 in Uncategorized

When I traveled to Jonesville, Virginia with the University of Indianapolis to work with a Christian organization named Appalachia Service Project (ASP) in 2010, I thoroughly enjoyed myself.  We met amazing families that we were able to assist in making their homes “warmer, safer, and dryer.”  We participated in colloquial activities that left a lasting impression.  We grew closer together as a community of students.  When I traveled to Jonesville in 2011, UIndy had named the trip to be “interfaith.”  As a result, our 2011 experience was even better.

We started our trip at 7:00 am on a chilly Sunday morning.  Very few of the excursion’s attendees had ever communicated before, so connections needed to be made to achieve success.  Over the course of week, I personally remember many encounters of building friendship.  During travel to Virginia, I better acquainted myself with Anu, a Hindu student, by discussing our passions for non-profit humanitarian work from our different cultural perspectives and Derick, a Chinese student, by conversing about Chinese and American cultural differences.  Once at the ASP center, I started learning more about the members of my work team and gained more fellowship as a result.  When coming home from the mountains of Appalachia, I felt that I had gained meaningful relationships with many people.

There was many times where team-building fellowship grew away from the home repair work.  On a few nights, one work crew would offer ice breakers and reflection to better process our work days and have fun.  We also played “Megatron Drawfest,” which is the best game of Pictionary one could ever play.  When dining came to mind, we “made Oreos better” (M.O.B.) with icing, peanut butter, chocolate syrup, and other goodies.  By interacting with a Louisiana church group that also lived with the university group for the week, we learned authentic Lousiana dance moves.  When the weather caused unexpected delays, we talked (often while knitting) together and found creative ways to spend our time.  Overall, we participated in many activities that brought everyone closer together.

We became unified through our sweat, too.  While some of our work team members had greater strengths than others, everyone contributed to the project.  From our limited time at our worksite due to snow, we managed to deconstruct the original flooring in the house, place insulation, lay down sub-flooring, and start the process of installing luann, (the material placed before tiling.)  Sometimes we were using power tools; other times, we were using common ingenuity.  From working together as a team, we came to know each other better and could claim that we had achieved our goals together.

While I obtained more friends from the university, I also spent important time with the homeowners that we helped.  Our students were split into three work teams, and the family that my team helped was friendly in the midst of need.  Gary and Misty are a young couple with a three-year old daughter and two-year old son, and their hospitality was boundless.  After spending one full day on the worksite, Misty insisted on giving a keepsake to each of us to show her gratitude.  Furthermore, Gary contributed to our work efforts by providing construction expertise.  Even though the kids often hindered our progress, they were incredibly fun-loving and offered a great diversion when home repair became difficult.  My work team developed a close bond with the family, and we were sad to leave them.

Looking in retrospect upon the week I spent in Virginia, the diversity of motivations for service still remains with me.  While I expressed the importance that service has to my Christian faith through the example of Jesus on the trip, others had different reasons for their attendance.  A Hindu student discussed her willingness to serve people that was influenced less by her faith and more by the morals instilled by her parents.  A Chinese student explained the mutual benefit of serving others while refining his English communication skills for personal development.  Even for those of a similar Christian faith to mine, everyone had a unique motive for serving at ASP.  Therefore, I witnessed many students from different backgrounds come together in order to practice service in community.  I may perhaps never know the entirety of the positive consequences to result from the trip.

Mark Wolfe

Interfaith Youth Core Fellow 2010-2011

President of the Interfaith Forum

As the holiday season approaches, I am reminded of the interfaith holidays that the Interfaith Youth Core, Interfaith Forum, and UIndy celebrated this semester.

At UIndy, the campaign started with the first meeting of the Interfaith Forum on September 7.  Twenty-three students attended the meeting to hear about the interfaith movement and enjoy scrumptious international food.  For the rest of the semester, the Interfaith Forum would have exciting meeting topics that were educational and occasionally funny.  We had a lively debate when discussing the “Ground Zero Mosque” situation that came to no conclusion but upheld the First Amendment rights regardless.  We then hosted mock interfaith dialogues that had everyone laughing to the point of falling from their seats.  Lastly, our meeting about food and fasting was very informational and made an impact on our outlook on different faiths.

The Interfaith Forum also performed multiple service and social action efforts that were influential through the semester.  First, members of the Forum hosted a block party at the Interfaith Hospitality Network for homeless families that including delicious food and fun activities in September.  We then traveled to Gleaner’s Food Bank in October and made 700 food bags for the hungry in Indianapolis.  In November, UIndy students fed free pancakes to 30 people while raising $50 for Gleaner’s Food Bank.  Lastly, in December we coordinated with the Peak and Salt & Light Christian Ministries to make no-sew blankets for the Linus Project and sent materials of support to the IU Hillel after the vandalism they endured.

Through Interfaith Youth Core involvement, UIndy also hosted the first installment of the Better Together Campaign through the “What IF?” Speak-In Event.  After months of preparation, the Forum and CPB provided a no-sew blanket service project, a panel of speakers from the Interfaith Hospitality Network (IHN), and an interfaith dialogue that engaged people of different faiths.  First, the blanket project made 25 blankets for the homeless that IHN assist.  Next, the speakers gave words of wisdom to the attendants, including Mitch Katz from the Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation that wished to ask “why not interfaith?” instead of “what if interfaith?” because he saw it as a necessity.  Lastly, we hosted a 30-minute interfaith dialogue that asked the participants about service they had accomplished in the past and its effect on their faith.  Overall, everyone learned more about different faiths and made new friendships after the event had finished.

We have completed the first semester, but another one is looming in the distance.  We have some great events planned, including the Better Together Large-Scale Service Project, the Better Together Banquet, an Interfaith Peace Service, the Thirst Project Benefit Concert, a possible weekly interfaith service project with Fletcher Place Community Center, and multiple discussions and service projects through the Interfaith Forum to come.  The interfaith movement has made great strides in its first semester at UIndy.  Let’s carry the momentum further and show we are better together.

 

Mark Wolfe

IFYC Fellow 2010-2011

President of the Interfaith Forum

UIndy Class of 2013