Embracing diversity

GVL / Archive
Former student Mohamed Mohamed prays in Kirkhoff (2012)

GVL / Archive Former student Mohamed Mohamed prays in Kirkhoff (2012)

The Grand Valley State University student senate has been working on securing a prayer room for all students, faculty and staff members to use. On Sept. 16, the senate will host an open house for the new space, immediately followed by the second annual Spiritual Life Fair.

Former student senate president Andrew Plague said the events will recognize the collaboration of the student senate with the faculty senate, the Kaufman Interfaith Institute and other religious groups on campus. As the inclusive prayer and meditation task force, they pushed for the creation of an inclusive space for people of all faiths, Plague said.

“We decided that we really want to start the new year by making sure people know the space is there and to celebrate this accomplishment,” he said. “I’m really committed to making it accessible to everyone.”

Plague said the Spiritual Life Fair is like a “miniature Campus Life Night” for faith and non-faith-based organizations to show students what they have to offer.

“”What I hope people take away from the event is that Grand Valley is committed to providing resources for students to practice their faith,” Plague said. “Grand Valley understands that religion is important to many on campus. The university is making it easier for them to practice.”

Jesse Bernal, GVSU president of Inclusion and Equity, Katie Gordon, Kaufman Interfaith Institute program manager and a few students will speak during the event.

Gordon said she will speak about efforts they have made for community interfaith in Grand Rapids. She said the open house and fair will show “a push for GVSU to be intentionally inclusive of all traditions on campus.”

She emphasized Plague’s point that everyone, no matter their faith, is welcome to the open house and fair.

“The inclusive prayer and meditation space is for absolutely anyone of any background or tradition,” Gordon said. “We want to provide space for positive engagement across difference, and using interfaith as a starting point can be a powerful way to bring people together. We seek not to agree, but to better understand one another.”

Another member of the task force was Karen Gipson, chair of the executive committee of the university academic senate. Gipson said the executive committee and the task force have accomplish their initial goals of creating a prayer space, but there is still work to be done.

“There is still a need for ongoing involvement and improvements to the space – a foot-washing station, a larger space, etc. There’s been some talk of transitioning the task force into a regular committee or perhaps a focus group under the Division of Inclusion and Equity,” Gipson said. ” I’m very excited for the open house next week, because I hope that it will bring together people of various faith and non-faith traditions to share stories and build understanding of both commonalities and differences.”

The interfaith space open house will take place outside of Room 2243 in the Kirkhof Center from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. The Spiritual Life Fair is held immediately afterward in Kirkhof Room 2215/2216.

The next event the Kaufman Interfaith Institute is hosting is a lecture by Eboo Patel, scheduled for Oct. 8. As the founder and president of Interfaith Youth Core and an author, Patel works for interfaith inclusion nationwide.

For more information and resources, visit www.gvsu.edu/inclusion/interfaith.