Is it possible to disagree better? That’s the premise behind a series of interfaith breakfasts where students, faculty, and staff came together to listen and learn—and sometimes disagree—in a safe place.
During the last academic year, members of the College community who identified as Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, and agnostic met to discuss current events using various religious texts.
“I am not religious, and I don’t read religious texts at all; this is my first exposure to them,” said Kayla Amini, a general education major at the April breakfast. “I like it. It is not forcing you to believe in one thing. It is encouraging you to find your own beliefs and values, and what is right to you.” Organizers said all participants were introduced to new religious writings.
The April breakfast coincided with the College’s Vegweek (a series of events to introduce the College community to vegetarianism). Nik Sushka, service learning coordinator with the Office of Student Life, said the group discussed different religious texts related to fasting and eating, including the prohibition of drinking alcohol and eating animals.
“One group had a lot of healthy disagreement,” Sushka said. “A staff member grew up hunting. A student was a vegan. Their conversations really embodied the goal of the interfaith program. Learning from one another and disagreeing well.”
Social work major Constance Roberts attended several of the breakfasts. “I came just to gain more knowledge and more tolerance of different religions. That was important to me as someone who does not practice religion myself.”
Roberts was also lead planner for the MC Vegweek activities and saw an opportunity. “We wanted to discuss different food, eating cultures, and veganism in the context of religion,” she said. “And I learned that people are willing to open their hearts and minds to different viewpoints, which is especially important in the current political climate.”
Roberta Buckberg, the College’s job opportunity coordinator, appreciated the chance to listen and learn at the event—and throughout the work day.
“It is a gift to work in a place where there are so many different opinions and so many different views, and you can learn something every day. Our students are really powerful, making us open our eyes and helping us see our world differently.”