Interfaith Retreat / Sleepover

Otherwise known as Interfaith Goes Crazy With Big Tabboo and Milkshakes

Check out these pictures of us and food and games!

Although we didn’t get to go “off campus” as we originally wished to, we still had a very fun time at the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life. The evening was filled with food (home-made pizza and milkshakes), sharing and games. We also talked about the future of Interfaith Justice League – it looks very bright! Haha.

Thank you goes to all those who helped organize it (thank you Pastor Joan for reserving the space for us!) and all those who participated 🙂

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WesSpeak on 5K

Students, Professors, and Middletown Residents Unite in 5K for Brighter Dawns

ByKimberly Muellers

On Saturday, April 16, crowds of high school seniors will be arriving at Wesleyan University, eager to see the college, professors, and classmates with whom they will spend their next four years. Amidst the excitement, many of these accepted students will be lining up, along with current Wesleyan students, faculty, and runners from all across Middlesex County, at the starting line of the 5K for Brighter Dawns. While their peers play Frisbee or sleep into the afternoon, these active students will run 3.1 miles to support the residents of a slum in Khalishpur, Khulna, Bangladesh, many of whom must walk for miles each day to collect water for their families.

In the Summer of 2010, Tasmiha Khan, a Wesleyan junior, founded Brighter Dawns to improve health in underprivileged communities in Bangladesh. After spending a summer treating diabetes in a slum in Bangladesh, Khan realized that in order to prevent the high levels of disease that occurred in the area, the residents would first need access to clean water and education on personal hygiene, two essential things that were almost completely absent there.

Under Khan’s guidance, Brighter Dawns raises money to provide these necessities. The organization, which began as a student group at Wesleyan and recently became a non-profit, will build 30 latrines and 10 wells in a slum in Khalishpur, and provide 1,000 sanitary kits to households in the area. Additionally, Brighter Dawns will hire three local women as community health officers and will train them to monitor the wells and latrines and to educate the community in sanitary practices. This unique, comprehensive approach will hopefully establish sustainable reductions in disease and improvements in overall quality of life throughout the community.

Next weekend, Brighter Dawns will take its vision of community engagement to Middletown, offering Wesleyan students and Middletown residents the much-needed opportunity for social interaction. As these two groups, which coexist within the same area yet have retained an air of separation in the past, join together and run, they will also be supporting another community that neither has met before.

“The 5K for Brighter Dawns Event…aims to bring together the greater Middletown community and beyond to help bring clean water to a slum in Bangladesh,” explains Jason Lee, a Wesleyan junior and the Development Director of Brighter Dawns.

Symbolizing this cooperation between their communities will be the mayor of Middletown, Sebastian Giuliano, and the president of Wesleyan University, Michael Roth. The mayor will deliver an introduction to the event at 10:30 a.m., and the race itself, attended by President Roth and family, will begin at 10:30 a.m. in Middletown, Conn. Participants of all ages and fitness levels are welcome to walk, jog, or run in the event, and water will be available for all. Prizes will be awarded to the top three finishers.

Following the race, Wesleyan’s Interfaith Justice League, the co-sponsor of the 5K for Brighter Dawns, will continue the theme of unity with a Better Together Interfaith Brunch, where 5K participants and the public will be treated to free food and a discussion on the meaning of “interfaith.” The brunch, catered by Brew Baker’s, will begin at 11 a.m. and continue until 1 p.m. in Allbritton 311, 222 Church Street, Middletown, CT.

“The 5K event is also…an attempt to bring people of different religious or spiritual traditions to work together for a common cause, in response to a challenge put forth by President Obama earlier in March on inter-religious collaboration,” explains Carmen Yip, a member of Brighter Dawns and organizer of the Interfaith brunch. “Different religious communities in Wesleyan are invited and encouraged to take this opportunity…to continue these dialogues on why we serve our society, and more specifically, the Brighter Dawns water project. The brunch will also be a celebration of the various accomplishments and efforts achieved by the religious communities and the interfaith group this year.”

By promoting unity and healthy activity in the local community, Brighter Dawns wishes to give something back to their supporters who, through their generosity, are bringing hope to a community abroad.

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We are Better Together :)

On April 16th, Wesleyan held its first Better Together social action project and Brunch, thank you to all those who have helped out or participated in any way!

It was WesFest weekend, when many prospective students came to visit with their families. We also strategically planed our Better Together event on this week to not only connect current Wesleyan students, but also reach out to our “future”! It is true that the campus atmosphere might let out a first impression that there is no religious life on campus… So it is very important to have an event that shows prefrosh that spiritual life exists and are blooming on campus – What better way to do so than having our Better Together campaign?

We were very happy to have co-organized the 5K Marathon with Brighter Dawns. The proceeds went towards this year’s BD summer project to build water sanitation facilities in the slums of Bangladesh! It was a long planning process due to legal and safety issues, and also the weather forecast said it would rain that day! Fortunately, the morning had beautiful weather and we successful hosted the Marathon in Long Lane tracks near campus. Over $1100 was raised in one morning from the participation donation and also T-shirt sale! The Mayor and President Roth also stopped by to show their support towards the water sanitation project and our interfaith collaboration. All in all, it was a joyous event!

The fun didn’t end there – Interfaith Justice League held an Interfaith Brunch / Better Together Bash in Allbritton roof. Delicious sandwiches and bagels were catered from Brew Bakers, along with home-made scrambled eggs, and fresh coffee and fruits… yum! Our chaplains also attended our brunch to share with prospective students the vibrant scenes in their communities. Current students also had a blast celebrating this past amazing year of different religious/spiritual life as well as interfaith work on campus. We also discussed a lot about how to make interfaith work and opportunities more open and “attractive” to the whole campus. Here are some photos to end this blog post! Thank you once again to all those who made this possible 🙂

Check out our WesSpeak on this event!

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President Obama Has Something to Say to You!

“I urge you to take up this Interfaith Service Challenge and show once again that the values that unite us as Americans are far more powerful than those that divide us.” -President Barack Obama

President Obama has made interfaith cooperation a priority of his administration. He is calling on campuses to take the lead, modeling how to build bridges lines of across difference. IFYC is offering tools, resources, and technical assistance to aid campuses developing strategic plans for the President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge.

IFYC can serve as a resource for campuses to creatively and effectively develop the core components of the President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge strategic plan – in particular, advancing interfaith service and interfaith engagement.

IFYC is supporting campuses involved in this initiative by:

  • Providing IFYC resources and resources from other field leaders]on best practices and effective program models on interfaith cooperation and community service;
  • Connecting applicants to key leaders in the field and offering opportunities to share knowledge on bridging interfaith and community service efforts on campus (more information forthcoming);
  • Providing support via email.
  • Conducting Interfaith Leadership Institutes and on campus training to equip students, faculty, and staff to mobilize a movement for interfaith cooperation on campus.

View more links:

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Interfaith ally campuses!

With Social Justice and Diversity becoming two main focuses of many US colleges, the issue of interfaith collaboration are also on the top of these schools’ agendas. Check out this link to see what other campuses are doing with their Better Together campaign!

An excellent example from my friend April at Hamline University.

Twelve students of all different faiths, traditions, and cultural backgrounds all came together to help support the family of Ker Ner and Paw Tar Shu, Karen refugees from Thailand who are expecting their first baby in May!

After we talked through some pre-volunteering interfaith discussion, we loaded the back of our Hamline van with donations from our neighbors and headed off to the apartment. Once there, we got right to work! (click here for more)

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“When faced with a challenge, look for a way, not a way out.” – David Weatherford

If you’ve been following up with Wesleyan’s Better Together campaign, you would remember that we proposed a social action project on Gender Empowerment in Middletown (G.E.M.). Unfortunately, there have been some difficulties in the process… But fear not! We are still going to do something to show that we are, indeed, Better Together!

We are happy to announce that the Interfaith Justice League will be partnering with Brighter Dawns to improve water sanitation in Bangladesh!

Here are details about our fund-raising and experience event:

(click to enlarge for details)

Date: 16th April 2011 (Saturday of WesFest)
Time: 10:30am registration
Venue: (start/end) Usdan
Participation donation: $10/person
Followed by brunch with the Interfaith Justice League in Allbritton 311.

Brighter Dawns is a student-initiated NGO that aims to provide water sanitation and facilities in the slums of Bangladesh. Did you know that over 31,000,000 people in Bangladesh do not have access to clean water? While we only need to turn on the tap in our bathrooms, these people need to either walk for hours to get to a well, or even worse, use unclean water! There are serious health issues that could result from unsanitary water. To help build a healthy community and growth, this is one of the most important issues to address!

So, Wesleyan students, no matter what religious/spiritual tradition you are from, please come help and support this meaningful cause! Invite your friends and discuss what water sanitation and community development means to you!

If you are interested, please leave a comment here and/or email!

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After What IF?

Short update about “Wesleyan Asks What IF?” last Monday and a shout-out to all volunteers and helpers!

Sponsored by: Interfaith Justice League, Interfaith Youth Core, University Chaplains, ResLife, SALD, SBC, Office of Diversity and Institutional Partnerships

After eight weeks of planning and two weeks of intense publicity, Wesleyan held its “What IF…?” Speak-In on November 22nd. Since my Facebook profile picture, T-shirt, folders, bags were covered with the “What IF….?” Logo, many people came up to me and asked, what if what? More than 70 curious students showed up at the Daniel Family Commons to see what this is all about.

Many students at Wesleyan, known to be a very liberal campus, avoid talking about religion or spirituality. Hence, many also frown upon “interfaith”. “That’s not for me, that’s for religious people.” Our event very much targeted at this misconception. Interfaith is about respecting, understanding and working with people of ALL backgrounds and philosophies, and that includes atheists, agnostics, moderates, orthodox and you!

Ali Chaudhry ’12 shared his story on the Pakistan Flood Relief campaign this year. Seeing his home under water and desperately in need, he wondered what could be done to show the other side from the apathy from many international powers. Starting with a few core members, Ali recruited more than 20 students to help plan, organize and hold a variety of fund-raising as well as awareness-raising events on campus including a charity dinner with panel discussion, cookies cup, Samsara (South-Asian culture show) and an acappella concert. These students come from different faith backgrounds but they united on the shared value of humanity and helping those in need.

This echoes with Wesleyan’s annual Fast-a-Thon, which started in 2006, and has been an important event where students learn about different faith traditions while contributing to the Middletown community. Students donate their meal points while they experience fasting, a common practice in many religions, for half a day. They then break fast together while learning songs, stories, rituals from each other. These donations then go to Amazing Grace food pantry to feed the hungry. This year, over 1200 students and staff donated $14,200 to the organization!

Andras Corban-Arthen from the EarthSpirit Community shared his experience at the Parliament of World’s Religions, where he serves on the board of trustees. He told stories of real-life and global interfaith dialogues and collaboration. Specifically, he also addressed the concern of overcoming our differences to work together. The heart of all this is mutual respect and an honest openness.

After an in-depth small-group discussion on what Wesleyan could do to show we’re Better Together, our steering committee presented the social action plan for Spring 2011. Our project focuses on empowering women and girls through education. Locally in Middletown, we will hold biweekly workshops in middle schools to encourage female students to tear down the social gender stereotypes and constraints. Tentative programs include: female a cappella concert, female professors sharing. Globally, we will raise money for stationary for students in the Kibera School for Girls in Kenya. We will show that we are Better Together!

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Tomorrow We Ask What IF…?

Hola to all my Interfaith and Social Justice defenders! It’s here, it’s here– the Wesleyan Asks WHAT IF event is happening tomorrow!!!


What-If_Purple_Transparent.gifwe replaced religious intolerance with cooperation?

What-If_Purple_Transparent.gifwe used our differences to work together and change the world?

Faith commitments inspire people to work to serve and improve their communities. In fact, some of the greatest social action movements of the 20th century like the Civil Rights Movement have been inspired by young people of faith.

Come learn about the “Better Together” Campaign, which empowers students to speak out about the power of interfaith action, mobilizes students from all faith backgrounds (and lack thereof), and sustains service work on campus. There will be a guest speaker, discussion, and FREE DINNER!

When: Monday, Nov. 22, 5-7PM
Where: Daniel Family Commons
Why: because interfaith is awesome!



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WesSpeak – Decoding and Debunking Islamophobia

This was from a while ago (before the panel). Here’s the link on the Argus with comments.

Islamophobia has recently become a prominent presence in the United States. Articles and forums with titles like CNN’s “Holy War: Should Americans Fear Islam?” (ABC, October 3) demonstrate the problems inherent in such fears. To deplore the beliefs and actions of some 1.6 billion practicing Muslims of the world is a dauntingly large undertaking and, frankly, quite an unreasonable one. Fear of Islam at large assumes a monolithic Muslim people and culture, but religions, and especially those that are so complex and pervasive as Islam, are anything but homogeneous. Along with Islam, Judaism and Christianity—Islam’s companions as religions of the book—both encompass a vast range of denominations, each with its own distinct set of practices and interpretations of the sacred texts. Thus, it is no more accurate to assert that all Muslims are the same than it is to assume homogeneity among Christians and Jews.

The anti-Muslim discourse that has pervaded the United States as of late has appeared in news features, protests, Wespeaks, and many other media outlets. In light of these public expressions of discord, we, the Interfaith Justice League, feel compelled to address contemporary American anti-Muslim sentiment, and the confusion from which it is borne. Indeed, a host of misunderstandings have coalesced to form the American brand of Islamophobia that is so prevalent and normalized by the media today.

One of the most prominent American misconceptions about Islam is that Muslims at large pose a terrorist threat. Again, this fear stems from the conception of all Muslims as an ideologically and culturally unified people. While Muslims do feel unified on the one belief that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the last messenger, this belief works primarily to form a foundation for the practice of Islam, from which practitioners diverge due to geographical, cultural, and ideological disparities. That said, the fundamental tenets of Islam foster a largely tolerant and pacifist disposition within the Muslim faith.

The United States has a history of constructing the ‘other’ in American society. Irish, Italian, and German immigrants, blacks, and Latin and Native Americans, among others, have all played this special role in the American sociopolitical landscape. Now, within the mainstream media, Muslims seem to be taking the helm. Each group that has played the role of the ‘other’ role has, within a certain conservative American consciousness, posed a threat to the notions of white privilege and manifest destiny. The idea of Muslims defiling American sacred space, as a few extremists did on September 11, 2001, is intolerable to many. This trepidation is enhanced by a fear of a Muslim takeover of the American way of life. After September 11th, images circulated of New York City’s skyscrapers topped with minarets, insinuating an Islamic takeover of the United States. This notion of a physical takeover stands as a symbol for the more deep-seeded, albeit unwarranted, fear of a displacement of American values with Muslim ones.

The historic fears about immigrants degrading American culture, which mirror the current fear of an Islamic takeover in America, have not come to fruition. Rather, the multiplicity of cultures and peoples in this nation have come together to comprise the complex matrix that is “American culture.” Indeed, while racism remains a widespread problem in our country, cultural differences that were previously seen as insurmountable have been breached in a number of areas. That being said, Muslim and American identities are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, the part of the American ethos that makes it so unique is an openness towards outside cultures and ideas.

As activists, we place great importance on the elimination of hate speech against Muslims, and the most direct way to work towards this ideal is to increase Americans’ understanding of Muslim people and cultures. As a part of a larger effort to facilitate Wesleyan’s understanding of the multifaceted problem of Islamophobia in the United States, the Interfaith Justice League will host a panel discussion on the Park51 controversy and Islamophobia in general, this Thursday, November 4th in Shanklin 107 at 4:30pm. Come one, come all, to learn more and help dissipate the injustice of misinformed hatred towards Muslims. We hope that reflection on American perceptions of Islam will foster a broader dialogue on discrimination at large.

Peacefully yours,

The Interfaith Justice League

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Fantastic Islam/Islamophobia/Park51 Panel

A great turn-out at Shanklin 107 last week. Students with plateful of cookies entered an interesting and interactive discussion with Sister Marwa, Professor Elvin Lim (Govt) and Professor Attiya Ahmad (Religion). Each speaker spoke from their profession and experience. In the end, no simple answer or solution was given, but participants were encouraged to use the new knowledge from this panel to form their own opinion and argument. We encourage and challenge you to bring this topic into your daily conversations with friends, professors and family!

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