Exhibit teaches coexistence

GVL / Emily Frye
Steve, Caitlin, and Erin McMahan (left to right)

GVL / Emily Frye Steve, Caitlin, and Erin McMahan (left to right)

Allison Ribick

Today marks only the second time that the “Religious Tolerance – Islam in the Sultanate of Oman” exhibition will be hosted in the United States. The exhibit has been showcased in regions of the world such as Europe and the Middle East. It even was displayed at the United Nations headquarters in Vienna, Austria.

Grand Valley State University will be a host site of the exhibition beginning today.

With coordinated efforts from the Kaufman Interfaith Institute and the University Libraries, the exhibit allows viewers to learn of Islamic culture and traditions and religious coexistence that is present in the country of Oman.

The Kaufman Interfaith Institute is a non-profit organization housed at GVSU that works in the Grand Rapids community and on campus.

Kaufman’s director, Douglas Kindschi, traveled to Oman earlier this year upon invitation and learned of the Religious Affairs Department within Oman’s government. After describing the interfaith efforts in Grand Rapids and at GVSU, the coordinators of the exhibit invited GVSU to be a host site.

GVSU has connections in Oman as well, as two GVSU alumni are working at an interfaith institute in Oman.

The international exhibit will be at the Mary Idema Pew Library from Oct. 13 to Oct. 30, with supplemental programs the library has coordinated.

“We wanted to create programming that would enrich the exhibit experience,” said Katie Gordon, program manager for the Kaufman Interfaith Institute. “We wanted to lead exhibit viewers into an actual conversation with people, rather than just absorbing information.”

Departments such as GVSU’s Middle East studies program and the Padnos International Center, as well as student organizations like Better Together Interfaith Youth Core and Peace M.E.ans assisted in the formation of the programs and can offer opportunities to continue the conversation of religious tolerance.

The exhibit will be in the exhibition space at the Mary Idema Pew Library throughout the two weeks, while the programming will take place just a few feet away in the Multipurpose Room in the atrium level of the library.

“This was a conversation that Grand Valley students and staff should have about how Islam is a religion that promotes religious tolerance and understanding,” Gordon said.

Gordon and Erin Fisher, program manager of University Libraries, were among the people who helped coordinate the exhibit and its programs.

“The purpose of our exhibit space is to bring exhibits that are interdisciplinary in nature and that are thought provoking for students from all disciplines,” Fisher said.

To learn about Oman’s history, viewers can attend the “A Middle Eastern Experience: An Invitation to Visit and Learn about Oman” presentation on Oct. 14 from 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Thomas Uthup will present on “Interfaith in the Middle East: Rays of Light in Darkness” on Oct. 16 from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. due to his extensive background regarding the United Nations, cultural issues and religious factors within society.

A panel discussion, InclusiviTEA, will take place on Oct. 16 from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. with talk of how to end religious discrimination and stereotypes. The panel of students will share their religious traditions and stories.

To learn of religious tolerance in other countries and experiences of GVSU students studying abroad, viewers can attend “Video Conversations with Lakers Abroad” on Oct. 17 from 11 a.m. to noon in the learning alcove on the first floor of the Mary Idema Pew Library.

Lastly, there will be a film screening and discussion of the film “The Other Son” on Oct. 23 from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. The film is about two young men, one Israeli and one Palestinian, who find out they were switched at birth.

The opening reception will take place tonight from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the Multipurpose Room located in the atrium of the Mary Idema Pew Library and is open to anyone. GVSU President Thomas Haas will introduce the event and speak about the importance of religious tolerance.

In addition, a delegation from the religious affairs department in Oman will give an introduction to the film, “Religious Tolerance in Oman,” by award-winning German filmmaker Wolfgang Ettlich, which will be shown at the reception.

Throughout the next two weeks, the exhibition will offer opportunities for students and the community to learn of Oman’s culture and religious acceptance.

“Exploring traditions from faiths other than your own, I think, is a really great way to expand cultural horizons and build greater understanding for different cultures,” Fisher said.

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