Interfaith club hosts ‘Better Together Day’ celebration
Julianna McKenna | Wednesday, April 11, 2018
Saint Mary’s students are working together to create a new interfaith group on campus after recent interfaith discussions. Sophomore Alayna Haff said the idea for the club was ignited after Interfaith Youth Core came to campus for a conference earlier this year. Haff discussed Better Together Day, a day that honors interfaith dialogue.
“Better Together Day is a national day of action headed by Interfaith Youth Core, a national nonprofit working towards an America where people of different faiths, world views and traditions can bridge divides and find common values to build a shared life together,” Haff said.
The goal of Better Together Day is to raise awareness about religious diversity and dialogue across college campuses, professor Anita Houck of the Saint Mary’s Religious Studies Department said.
“It is an annual day where they invite people to sign up online and bring awareness to the fact that it’s better to have conversations with people who are different from you,” she said. “We want to learn from each other and grow from interaction with other people. Better Together day brings attention to this, especially by getting college age students to talk about these topics.”
Religious dialogue is an important aspect of community development, Houck said.
“Obviously the most immediate benefit is for us to engage with other interesting people and to get insights about ourselves for those of us that are religious or spiritual or just wanting to develop our own world views,” she said. “We learn so much by talking to people who see the world differently.”
She also said engaging in these types of conversations not only advances our religious understanding, but our cultural understanding as well.
“We do this by acknowledging commonalities and differences, which allows us to see others as human beings,” Houck said. “It affects our politics, it affects our decisions about who we are going to vote for, what policies we support, the kinds of jokes we are going to make and so forth. It teaches us a lot about ourselves. By learning from other people about how they see the world it clarifies to us about what is really important for us.”
Saint Mary’s honored Better Together Day with a lecture by Boston College professor Catherine Cornille on “Women and Interreligious Dialogue.” Cornille argued that women play an integral role in religious dialogue.
“Women often are the ones taking initiative to reach out to other religious traditions and because of this are able to break down barriers and are much more open and generous to recognizing truth in other religious traditions,” Cornille said.
This is formative in the mission of Saint Mary’s Better Together club, as they plan to appeal to the entire campus community, Haff said.
“Our goal for this club is to incorporate our community in working together to make everyone feel included,appreciated and understood,” she said. “We need to be inclusive and understanding of those who are different than us.”
Haff said she believes religious dialogue is an important aspect of communication in general.
“Research has shown that when someone gets to know a person different from them, their attitudes towards that entire group also grows more positive,” she said. “By learning about other faiths and building relationships with people of different world views, we can break barriers, overcome biases and build bridges.”