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Conference encourages discussion of religious differences

and | Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Saint Mary’s joined the United Religious Community to host an Interreligious Conference, which marks the beginning of Saint Mary’s involvement in the Interreligious Student Community.

The United Religious Community (URC) is “a collaboration of a wide range of local congregations and religious communities,” religious studies professor Anita Houck said in an email.

Within the URC exists a smaller group of high school and college students called the Interreligious Student Community, Robert Stockman, professor of philosophy at Indiana University–South Bend (IUSB), said in an email

“[The URC] created the Interreligious Student Community to bring together local young adults interested in conversation across religious difference,” Houck said.

Other efforts to promote religious discourse have taken place, such as those of Michael Birkel, professor in the Earlham School of Religion, who spoke on his book called “Quran in Conversation”​ last year, said Houck. Because of this event’s success, Houck applied for a grant from the Interfaith Youth Core, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to make interreligious dialogue a norm in American society, in order to host the upcoming conference.

“The conference is designed to gather students and educators from multiple campuses for training and networking. These regional gatherings are an opportunity to create a core of young leaders in your region and inspire ongoing interfaith initiatives on multiple campuses,” Houck said.

Houck also expressed her wish that this conference will create a conversation about different religions on campus.

“​The goal of the conference is to create conversation across multiple campuses, to bring people from diverse backgrounds together,” Houck said. “I hope many participants and leaders will be from Saint Mary’s; I know our students have a great deal to offer and many are really interested in learning about interfaith work.”

In addition to Saint Mary’s and IUSB students, the conference is open to others interested in the Interreligious Student Community, as it is to be a regional conference, said Stockman.

Ultimately, the real goal of the conference, according to Houck, is to foster a dialogue in this community.

“I also think the conversation, learning and results will be richest if we emphasize collaboration across the region and bring people from multiple campuses, including some high school students and [alumni], together,” Houck said.

The Interfaith Youth Core will send facilitators to run part of the conference, Stockman said.

Because of the grant Houck received from the Interfaith Youth Core, the Interreligious Conference will be offered to students interested in participating at the cost of $15. Scholarships for those who cannot afford that cost will be available, Houck said.

The Interreligious Conference will be held in the Saint Mary’s Student Center beginning on the afternoon of Feb. 2 and continuing to the afternoon of Feb. 3.

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