Ravel/Unravel campaign highlights interfaith diversity

To celebrate the diversity of religious identities on campus, the Kaufman Interfaith Institute and University Libraries will bring the national Ravel/Unravel Campaign to Grand Valley State University.

Katie Gordon, the program manager at GVSU’s Kaufman Interfaith Institute, said the group will hold events March 13 through March 19 in the community and on campus “to promote interfaith understanding.”

This year is the first time Ravel/Unravel will be at GVSU. In 2010, the nonprofit organization Project Interfaith began filming interviews in Nebraska of people discussing their faiths. Today, it has more than 1,000 videos of people from around the country.

“We want to encourage talking about important issues of your own religious or spiritual identity,” Gordon said. “We are making it a more open conversation that people aren’t afraid to talk about.”

Gordon stressed that the project is open to anyone at the university: faculty, staff and students. People of all backgrounds, whether they’re religious or not, are encouraged to attend.

“The goal is to build an archive of Grand Valley faith or non-faith stories,” Gordon said. “The whole point is to get over stereotypes, put a face to faith and overcome people’s misconceptions of religious groups.”

Gordon said this campaign is specific to GVSU, but in the future, she hopes to extend it to other universities in the Grand Rapids area.

“Grand Valley is just the beginning,” she said.

Interviewees will be asked four questions about their religious or spiritual identity. GVSU film students will capture their short answers on video, edit them and upload them to YouTube. They will also be featured in the learning alcove located on the first floor of the Mary Idema Pew Library.

Erin Fisher, library program manager, is also involved in sponsoring the Ravel/Unravel Campaign at GVSU by supporting the production of the videos. Fisher said the main reason the library got involved is because of the learning alcove, which is meant to be engaging but also intellectual.

“We want to foster serendipitous learning and discovery,” Fisher said. “Our mission is to capture stories from Grand Valley that open your mind. The video platform adds unique value and allows a conversation to live on online.”

Fisher said the project is important because it invites interaction and allows the audience to become “co-creators” rather than passive consumers of information. Sharing stories, she said, helps us understand and appreciate religious diversity on campus.

She added that the ultimate goal is to create 100 videos.

The MIP Library and Kaufman Interfaith Institute funded the project together, relying on their resources and Project Interfaith for support. Fisher said there were no financial requirements when they created the campaign online.

Todd Fenton, a GVSU senior, is a film and video major and religious studies minor. Fenton works for Fisher at the library, where he curates videos in the learning alcove and produces his own videos. He will be one of the people behind the camera filming the interviews.

Fenton said other students can either drop in or sign up for an interview to get involved.

“A person’s faith is paramount,” Fenton said. “I want people to not be afraid of doing this. It’s a place free of judgment. It’s a platform to express yourself.”

For more information on how to get involved in the Ravel/Unravel Campaign, visit www.gvsu.edu/interfaith/ravel-unravel-campaign-145.htm.

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