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!