Interfaith Harmony Week to promote religious tolerance

Concordia College will participate in World Interfaith Harmony Week, a nationally recognized week overseen by the United Nations, from Feb. 5-9. Better Together, The Forum on Faith and Life, Concordia’s two interfaith scholars, and the Office of Ministry came together to make Interfaith Week at Concordia happen.

“Interfaith week is a time to gain understanding about different faith, non-faith, and philosophical traditions,” said Concordia interfaith scholar Sara Funkhouser.

Despite being held by a campus associated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the week aims to be open to all religions.

“[Interfaith week] seeks to spread the message of harmony and tolerance among the followers of all the world’s religions, faiths and beliefs. It seeks to do this by promoting their common basis of ‘Love of God and Love of the Neighbor, or Love of the Good and Love of the Neighbor.’ Its message invites everyone, excludes no one, and is purely voluntary,” states the event’s website.

The week will feature guest speakers at morning chapel services, as well as interactive activities in the evenings.

According to Taylor Strelow, the student president of Better Together, the chapel speakers were chosen because they were able to “represent traditions that we wanted to know more about, and that we felt could educate the larger campus environment.”

Better Together worked to find individuals from the community who could give insight to faiths other than Christianity. Mona Ibrahim, professor of psychology at Concordia, will speak about the Islamic faith. Carol Kapaun-Ratchenski, author and therapist, will speak about Unitarian Universalism. She is a member of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Fargo-Moorhead. Finally, Indranil SenGupta, assistant professor and mathematics graduate recruitment chair at North Dakota State University, will speak about the Hindu faith.

On Monday at 7 p.m. in Jones A, the interfaith scholars will present a joint research project titled “Intersectionality and Interfaith.” On Wednesday at 9 p.m. in the Centrum, Better Together will host “Interfaith in Action,” an event making tie-blankets for local homeless shelters. Finally, on Thursday evening at 7 p.m. in the Tabernacle, students will have a chance to interact with each other at an event titled “Interfaith Dialogue.”

Strelow is most looking forward to the “Interfaith in Action” event.

“I love when individuals of diverse backgrounds get together and make positive change, and I know this event will do just that,” Strelow said.

Dr. Jacqueline Bussie, faculty advisor of Better Together, director of the Forum on Faith and Life, and religion professor at Concordia, believes it is important that Concordia celebrates and engages in Interfaith Week and with interfaith work in general.

“Concordia is one of only 15 schools in the entire nation with an interfaith studies degree,” Bussie said. “We are nationally recognized as a vanguard institution in our interfaith work and commitment. The Lutheran heritage of our college means we are both rooted and open. For us to be rooted in our own faith tradition means to value, appreciate and learn from the faiths and worldview of our neighbors.”

Interfaith scholar Julia Brucklacher is also looking forward to the upcoming week.

“I am honestly so very excited about Interfaith week. The interfaith movement has completely changed my life because I have better tools and knowledge to work with people that are different than I am,” Brucklacher said.

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