Interfaith Resources strengthen GV community

Sikh Society of West Michigan Gurdwara, October 2018. Courtesy / Interfaith Resources

Sikh Society of West Michigan Gurdwara, October 2018. Courtesy / Interfaith Resources

Amanda Rogers

Grand Valley State University’s Campus Interfaith Resources helps connect students to each other through their differences in faith; they seek to support and celebrate the religious, secular and spiritual diversity here on campus.

Along with the many resources and connections the organization provides, the Campus Interfaith Resources also offers an internship program to one student each year.

“The first thing each intern has to do is look at their campus and think about what are the needs to help other people understand different religious traditions,” said Kevin McIntosh, Campus Interfaith Resource coordinator. 

The interns are expected to analyze the barriers present in building friendships with people who have different religious beliefs, as well as the barriers that stop us from gaining knowledge from these traditions.

Ultimately, they strive to bring interfaith to GVSU’S campus through site visits, live conversations, panels and more. 

One of the ways the program tries to bring people together is through their lift experience conversations, where they get to sit down with people who have different world views and talk about a common topic, such as current events.

“It’s a part of raising our own awareness about the differences that the people bring to campus when they come here,” said Ben Scott-Brandt, current inter for GVSU’s Campus Interfaith Resources. “We work to help people see that a little more clearly.”

They recognize the various religious traditions and want to highlight these voices in order to make GVSU more inclusive. 

Scott-Brandt said that they are not trying to change people’s identities, but to help them recognize their identities. He said that they want others to see the difference between each other and that there is a lot of value when it comes to learning a different perspective.

GVSU is one of the few public institutions to have an interfaith office on campus. McIntosh said that because of this they want to make sure they still have a student lead and student driven push.

McIntosh compared the intern to an interfaith action person who is able to be on the ground, talk to the students and get to know them personally from a student perspective. 

“To have student lead interfaith work, to me, makes this place more welcome and more inclusive,” McIntosh said.

Another way they strive to bring everyone together is by visiting different houses of worship. Most recently, they visited a Sikh house of worship where they were able to share a meal while learning about their different values.

Scott-Brandt said that the experience was amazing because you are totally out of your element, but still welcomed in.

“This gives me an opportunity to learn from my peers about what they are seeing and what they are doing with their faith,” Scott-Brandt said. “It gives me the opportunity to submit my viewpoint, but also to build relationships and work together on things we have shared values on.”

Scott-Brandt also explained that a college campus is a great place to learn not only within the classroom, but also in conversations with others. This is a great chance to get to know how others see the world.