Perhaps now more than ever, there seems to be a conflict between people of different faiths. You see it everywhere in news articles, on social media, and perhaps in your own life. Individuals can see and feel the same things we do while believing in a different faith, and that should be acceptable. It's important to respect the religious autonomy of others and teach it in our everyday actions.
Since recently joining InterFaith Leadership Council, I have had the pleasure of working with individuals of many faiths, prominently in my role coordinating our Religious Diversity Journeys program. The Religious Diversity Journeys’ curricula introduces diverse world religions and cultural traditions with immersive first-person learning for middle-school students across Metro-Detroit. The Journeys we have completed thus far have been an incredible learning experience for me.
Growing up in a prominently white public school setting, education on the many faiths was not something I was privy to. At the time, my district lacked significant cultural and religious diversity. We were taught to accept all, but when the “all” you are surrounded by are like yourself, how can one truly be educated?
My early career working at university offered my first diverse atmosphere. I worked with leadership, peers, and students of all faiths and cultures. At the time, I knew of the differences, but not what those differences stood for nor the complexities of their faiths.
Each Journey holds a new foundation of faith learning. During our Journeys to Hindu temples, I learned about the history of Hinduism, the importance of deities, participated in yoga sessions, learned the significance of the saree and how to tie it, and what is Dharma, Karma, and Afterlife. We experienced prayer, toured the temple, and everyone gathered at the end of the Journey to discuss their experience and ask meaningful questions.
In the Gurdwaras, I experienced Sikh martial arts (Gatka), and viewed traditional weaponry on display. During this visit, information was presented on the introduction of Sikhi and the Gurdwara. I learned the significance of how the unshorn hair is to be covered at all times by the dastar (turban) as a sign of respect for God. Sikhs believe in one God, equality, freedom of religion, serving their community, and have high respect for science.
We have just begun our Journeys into Christianity and will be immersing ourselves into Islam and Judaism in 2023, along with cultural institution visits to the Detroit Institute of Arts and the Zekelman Holocaust Center. Without a doubt, I am looking forward to learning more about these faiths and their rich history and customs.
Religious Diversity Journeys is truly a valuable program and expanding it can only bring understanding and acceptance to our communities and younger generations.
Director of Communications