Photo by Marisa Jackels. Senior Elise Tweten speaks at the Women's Interfaith Panel while Kelsy Johnson, Siham Amedy, Sonam Deyki and Kristi Del Vecchio listen.

Concordia College’s very first interfaith panel was hosted last Tuesday, giving six young women the opportunity to share their faith and their culture.

Organized by senior Elise Tweten and moderated by Lisa Twomey, an assistant professor in the Spanish Department, the panel consisted of six female students from both Concordia and Minnesota State University Moorhead: junior Siham Amedy representing Islam, junior Kristi Del Vecchio representing atheism, MSUM student Sonam Deyki representing Tibetan Buddhism, MSUM graduate Nive Manohar representing Hinduism, senior Kelsy Johnson representing transition to Judaisism, and Tweten representing Christianity.  Prairie Rose Seminole, representing Native American Spirituality, was scheduled but not able to attend.

The panel served as an opportunity for these women to share their religious and cultural identity.

“I wanted to show that I think women deserve to talk about things as big as religion” Tweten said. “I think the panel was a low-key way to educate people about other religions, in an environment that’s less threatening.”

It certainly was an educating experience for many in the audience.

“I really learned something about the different faiths and beliefs.  And I learned that not believing is actually a belief, too,” said Lucas Benjamin Kleine, a junior exchange student from Germany.

While six faiths were represented, each woman addressed one common theme: the necessity of interfaith understanding.

“The importance of engaging in dialogue about other faiths,” Del Vecchio said, “is to note our differences, while channeling our similarities to make a positive impact.”

Sonja Paulson from the Office of Intercultural Affairs, a co-host of the event, noted that an important part of interfaith understanding is participating in discussions like this panel.

“People can better understand other values when they articulate their own,” she said.

During the question and answer session, one audience member asked how Concordia can foster better interfaith understanding. Tweten answered by saying she is very conscious of using inclusive language, and Amedy challenged the audience to ask questions.

“I don’t get offended, I came here by choice and I expect curiosity,” she said.

Nive Manohar also noted that one of the best ways to engage in true interfaith understanding is to make friends.

“Talk with people from another faith,” she said. “They’re not really like the people in the movies”.

For Concordia, these women encouraged all to continue to put effort into stimulating inter-religious dialogue.  Taking steps to achieve this goal are Blake McKenzie and Mary Beenken, who are bringing the Better Together Campaign to Concordia.  This Campaign pushes college students to engage in open and honest conversation with people with different religions, cultures, and perspectives.

Tweten hopes that this will be the first of many interfaith panels to come to Concordia’s campus.

“Hopefully this panel will inspire students to continue.” she said, “We’re fortunate to have a President who supports interfaith dialogue, and together with his support and student organizations’, we can start working towards more.”

 

Marisa Jackels

Class of 2013 English-Writing Major Communications Minor Contributing Writer- PULSE Interests: Travel, Cooking French recipes, Chocolate, and writing about what people don't notice.

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