Interfaith club gives religion on campus a voice

March 1, 2018 — by Vivien Zhang and Jayne Zhou

When senior Adam Fayad founded Interfaith last year, he sought to provide a space on campus where students could come together to discuss religion and its place in society.

“We want to promote tolerance in a society that is very intolerant at the moment,” Fayad said. “In the United States, there’s a lot of polarization of different beliefs — religious beliefs especially. We want to create an environment where there’s free and open discussions so that we can promote understanding among the student body.”

The club meets Thursdays in history teacher Jerry Sheehy’s room. Before each meeting, club participants vote on one topic to discuss in depth, most of which relate to current events. One frequent theme across many of these discussions is whether religion should be judged by its followers’ actions or the religious principles themselves.

“This is a very important topic because it plays such a large role in the world right now,” Fayad said. “If you look at ISIS and the KKK and you say that religion should be judged by its followers, then ISIS truly represents Islam and the KKK truly represents Christianity. But this is not everyone’s point of view, so we take time to explore all the different possibilities.”

In the future, Fayad hopes to hold more activities and have more speakers in. So far, the club has hosted two Muslim speakers and one Christian speaker. Fayad wants to expand to more beliefs such as Hinduism, Sikhism and agnosticism.

Fayad takes pride in seeing the club’s impact on campus. With around 25 students attending each meeting, discussions are have become very widespread. The fact that he hears students having debates over the topics brought up during club meetings outside of school hours and meeting times only further inspires him to continue pursuing his goal of welcoming new ideas from all around.

“Just hearing people talk is already a positive, because discussion is something that becomes widespread,” Fayad said.

Junior Rohan Pandey enjoys attending Interfaith because of its welcoming, open space. Unlike other club meetings that feel like listening to class presentations, Pandey said, Interfaith is more interactive and takes more of a Socratic seminar-like approach to discuss religion, philosophy and politics. The club doesn’t focus on any one religion, but instead takes turns discussing the points of view of different faiths that the students in the meeting follow.

“We talk about things ranging from Trump to Islam to the Vedas which I think is really cool,” Pandey said. “Quite a few of my opinions have been changed as a result of spending time at Interfaith. The club also has a mutual understanding that all the participants are friends regardless of what disagreements they have, which is something that I think is important but society as a whole right now is definitely lacking.”

As time passes, Fayad hopes that the club can continue exploring more controversial topics such as abortion.  

“The most memorable thing about these club meetings is that we often end up having heated discussions, but people don’t get angry and nothing turns into disrespect — we have heated conversations in a good way,” Fayad said. “People are really proud of what they believe in and when given the chance to express it, I think they should speak their mind.”

 

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