Chaplain’s Office hosts OMG!Week

The Interfaith Engagement Week is held from Feb. 18 to 24. Its first event was a Dharma talk held Monday night in Harkness Tower.
The Interfaith Engagement Week is held from Feb. 18 to 24. Its first event was a Dharma talk held Monday night in Harkness Tower. Photo by Vivienne Jiao Zhang.

This week, students can participate in a Muslim prayer service, a Shabbat Friday night dinner and a discussion of Buddhist principles — all as part of a new Chaplain’s Office initiative.

The office is organizing the religious talks and services as part of Interfaith Engagement Week, a series of 11 events from Feb. 18–24 known as OMG!Week that aims to encourage students to learn about other religions. The Chaplain’s Office has run a similar three-day event called Interfaith Engagement Weekend for the past four years, Shuaib Raza ’14 said. The program’s expansion reflects the growing popularity of Chaplain’s Office events, as well as the addition of two interim Buddhist advisers and a Hindu life adviser to the Chaplain’s Office since the start of the semester, said Nathaniel DeLuca GRD ’06, the program coordinator for the Chaplain’s Office.

“We have been able to partner with undergraduate and graduate student organizations to really broaden the scope of events with the hope that they will appeal to even more people in the Yale community,” University Chaplain Sharon Kugler said. “This entire program is organized by both students and staff working together with a shared purpose of highlighting the richly diverse religious and spiritual landscape that is all around us.”

The week’s main events include a panel where professors will discuss faith in the classroom, a concert, a tour of Yale’s religious spaces and a study session of various religious texts, said Ariella Kristal ’14, a Chaplain’s Office peer liaison. Students from all religious backgrounds will also have the opportunity to attend services held regularly by different religious groups on campus, such as Islamic prayers, Shabbat services and Christian services, Kristal said.

She added that Interfaith Engagement Week will contribute to an atmosphere of openness and enthusiasm on campus, and she said the events will help create an environment that encourages students to welcome others into their religious communities. Kristal added that the event series will draw on religious services that take place regularly during termtime.

DeLuca said the office decided to organize Wednesday’s faculty forum — which will bring together Timothy Dwight College Master Jeffrey Brenzel and professors Geetanjali Chanda, John Hare and Daniel Abadi — in part as a response to student feedback.

“One of the most common things I’ve heard from students is that they do not feel like they can share that they have particular religious beliefs in the classroom, let alone include them in the discussion,” DeLuca said. “What do you do when your religious beliefs or practices contradict a professor’s opinion?”

A concert Thursday evening will feature performances from the religious music groups Magevet, Living Water and the Raga Society. The diverse performances at the concert represent the Chaplain’s Office’s philosophy of welcoming all students from all religions, DeLuca said, adding that music and dance are the highest forms of worship in many religious cultures.

Events such as Interfaith Engagement Week allow for necessary conversations between people from diverse backgrounds, Chanda said. Maintaining this dialogue on a regular basis, rather than waiting for conflicts to develop, is essential, she added.

The first event in the series was a Dharma talk held Monday night at the Buddhist Chapel in Harkness Tower.

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