Council considers minority religions

The Multifaith Council held a discussion Tuesday as part of a greater plan to increase dialogue between minority religions.

The council is comprised of Yale students who serve as an advisory board to the Chaplain’s Office on religious and spiritual issues and provide opportunities for members of different religions to meet. Eight students were present at the event yesterday, representing faiths including Christian Science, Baha’i, Paganism, Unitarian, Jainism and Hinduism. Students spoke about the challenges they face as part of smaller religious communities.

Mary Elizabeth Rehm ’06, who practices Paganism, said there was substantial agreement on several issues.

“I feel it was really awesome,” she said. “We focused on the points where we stand together, like the need for more open dialogue.”

Students went around the table and described their own religion and the challenges of having a very small number of people in their respective faith communities present at Yale.

Callista Brown DIV ’05, a Multifaith council member who organized the discussion, said despite the diversity of the group, the students could work together to increase campus awareness.

“One struggle that some of them have is not only that there are not many students representing a certain tradition, but they don’t have a home on campus,” Brown said.

Muslim Nabilah Siddiquee ’05 said an important topic the discussion focused on was the need for a common prayer space.

“It’s more difficult to organize and get together, especially with the lack of space,” she said. “We talked about maybe having an open center for religion space.”

In an effort to continue such dialogue, Brown said the council is planning to have a two-night retreat early next semester, which will be open to all undergraduate and graduate students interested. Previous retreats have focused on topics applicable to all religions, such as the sanctity of human life, forgiveness and how individuals apply their religion in their lives.

There will also be a multi-service day in early April, Brown said, where students can share the services prescribed by their faiths.

“Moveable Feasts,” regular meetings for students to eat together and discuss different religious themes, will also continue next semester. The feasts, held at different significant religious spaces on campus, remain the most central forum for interfaith dialogue, Brown said.

Other future plans include efforts to help students in minority religions form groups to meet other members of the same faith.

Brown said she hopes to continue other activities to help students of all faiths.

“It’s an ongoing part of our work, to support for those of religious traditions that are not heavily represented among Yale students,” Brown said.

Rehm said overall, she just wants to see more awareness for people who actively practice their faith.

“I think just generally we want more acceptance for being religious observant,” Rehm said. “Being religiously observant in general is a minority culture here.”

Multifaith Council members discuss spiritual issues in the basement of Bingham. The dialogue allowed students to describe their respective religions and the challenges they face as religious minorities at Yale. The Council plans to hold a retreat next semester.
Stephanie Speirs
Multifaith Council members discuss spiritual issues in the basement of Bingham. The dialogue allowed students to describe their respective religions and the challenges they face as religious minorities at Yale. The Council plans to hold a retreat next semester.

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