Promoting interACTIVE interfaith dialogue

It's been nearly two years since the Multi-Faith Chaplaincy decided to encourage a regular gathering of like minded individuals of different faith. Thus InterACTION was born.

One of InterACTION's first activities as a group in Feb. 2010, was to organize dinners every two weeks with students, staff and faculty of different religious faiths to engage in informal conversations about their respective beliefs and values.

Seven people attended the first interACTION interfaith dinner and the Multi-faith Chaplaincy hopes to see it grow from there.

What originally began with set topics for discussion has now evolved into a less structured, social meeting, now running every Tuesday afternoon at 5 p.m. in the Wellness Centre Meeting Room.

"You don't have to be religious," says Barbara Comes, a third-year Communications student majoring in Information Design, who describes herself as Agnostic. "You just have to be interested."

Inspired by journey

Comes, one of the student organizers of InterACTION, explains her inspiration for the weekly gatherings.

After taking a course with Instructor Glen Ryland who taught a class on genocide and religion, Comes says that one of the readings for that course made an impression on her.

The book, Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation, written by Eboo Patel (former advisory board member of Duke University's Islamic Studies Center), inspired Comes and fellow classmates to create InterACTION.

"The book chronicles his spiritual search for faith and for truth and he tries out all kinds of religions and hangs out with all kinds of religious people until he finds out that Islam is for him," Comes says.

Patel, an American Muslim of Indian heritage, is also the founder of Interfaith Youth Core, an organization that Comes also draws from.

Faith as a uniter instead of a divider

"It's all about getting people of different religions together and to do service projects and improve the world around them together," says Comes.

"A few of the other students and I thought that we should try to do something like that here and Glen helped us out," she says.

Although InterACTION would like to see higher numbers, they are happy with the level of engagement with the regular members that do participate every week.

"It's not so big right now, we have about five or six every meeting, that includes some faculty as well," Comes says.

"On one hand it's really nice to have a small group of people because it's easier to have those deeper conversations, but on the other hand for it to continue in a school setting, in such a transient environment, you need more people," she says.

If you are interested in learning or sharing ideas about different religion and spiritual beliefs, the Multi-Faith Chaplaincy InterACTION Community Meetings take place each Tuesday from 5 to 6:30 p.m. in the Wellness Centre Meeting Room (U216A). For more information contact Monique Verhoef or Barbara Comes.

- Fred Cheney, Jan. 26, 2010