Throughout Interfaith Week our Student Leaders have been running interfaith events at their universities. We have been impressed by the organisation of our Student Leaders and how well each event met the needs of its campus.
London School of Economics (LSE)
Our first event was an Interfaith Bible Study on ‘Cain & Abel- Discussion on the First Murder’ for students across the London universities. Hannah, our LSE Student Leader, recognised a need for interfaith activity not to shy away from in-depth discussions and so she deliberately chose a text which raises difficult questions about God’s justice.
Rabbi David Mason, of Muswell Hill Synagogue, spoke first about the passage in the Jewish tradition, examining the shame that Cain felt. Next Patrick Moriarty, headteacher of JCoSS and Church of England ordinand, looked at the text from a Christian perspective and explored what is meant by ‘favouritism’ and how this affects our perception of God.
The questions asked by students in the following discussion were insightful and considered various understandings of God’s justice. There was a positive response from students who were keen to come to future CCJ events.
University of Oxford
On Wednesday Oxford University Jewish Society hosted 40 students from different faiths at Mansfield College for an interfaith formal dinner. Jews, Muslims and Christians from several denominations shared conversation over a delicious meal. It was encouraging to see students deliberately sit with people from other faiths at dinner and there was much interesting conversation.
After dinner Dilwar Hussain, Chair of New Horizons in British Islam gave a speech exploring issues of faith on university campuses. Dilwar encouraged the students to engage with other faiths as much as possible in a society which is feeling more divided than ever and said “don’t let disagreements characterise your relationship with the other”.
Our Student Leader Ella organised the event out of a desire to recognise the place of religion at university, in a year when Oxford University has gained negative attention for antisemitism witnessed on campus. Programme Manager Rob Thompson represented CCJ and met many students who were inspired to further develop interfaith relations at their university.
University of Nottingham
On Thursday night, our Student Leaders at Nottingham University hosted a panel discussion on “Faith in the Home”, sharing their own experiences of being religious at home and at university and their engagement in interfaith work. The panel included a Jewish, Catholic, Anglican and Baha’i speaker who each spoke about what their faith means to them, how it affects their relationships with others and why they feel so strongly about providing opportunities for interfaith encounters. Annabel, one of our student leaders, said she would “love to see faith societies working more closely with each other” while Marco, another of our Student Leaders added that “communication and open dialogue between faiths is essential” to society functioning well.
The audience came from a range of religious backgrounds and questions included asking the panel whether coming to university had challenged their faith, and how they would practically go about creating interfaith opportunities rather than just talking about how nice it all is. The challenging discussions carried on after the event as people stayed around to get to know each other better over coffee and chocolate. Programme Manager Elliot Steinberg attended the event and was pleased to see a few students come forward saying they’d be interested in joining the programme next year!
University of Bristol
Students from Bristol faith societies worked together to launch an Interfaith ‘Collectathon’ raising money for The Julian Trust- a local homeless shelter. This initiative continued until Mitzvah Day (27th November) and we have been pleased to see positive relationships grow between the faith societies through this social action project.
The final student interfaith event took place on Friday evening at the University of Warwick together with Coventry University and the Union of Jewish Students. Both the Coventry and Warwick Jewish Societies are quite small and Josephine, one of our Student Leaders, noticed a lack of understanding about Judaism among her fellow students. She therefore organised an Interfaith Shabbat to allow students to experience this Jewish tradition, while
meeting with students from a variety of faith societies.
Throughout the meal students were keen to share their faith experiences and learn more about other religions. The relaxed nature of the event encouraged students with little prior knowledge of interfaith attend. By the end of the evening these students expressed a desire to become involved with interfaith at university for the first time. We are pleased to see what a positive impact this event made.
As Interfaith comes to a close, plans are already being made for the next semester when our Student Leaders will organise their second event. After the successes we have seen on campuses this week, we are excited to see what our Student Leaders plan next.
For more details about our Interfaith Week events or our Campus Leadership Programme contact Katharine, our Campus Leadership Manager.