Project Rousseau Interfaith Studies: Working to unite different religions
A Peacemaking Project by Alistair S.
What is the injustice we are solving?
Through this program we hope to educate our peers about our religions and the cultural traditions associated with them, to address the issue of intolerance between religious communities. We will lead visits to the Jewish Museum and other religiously significant sites as well as make presentations on the current state of our religions in the United States. We hope that by sharing information about our religions we promote equality and create a mutual understanding within our larger community.
Our Compassionate Solution:
To solve this injustice of religious discord
we will address lack of communication between faith groups
by educating our peers about religions faiths and traditions and providing a space for dialogue between different faiths.
Our Project Plan:
- To help reduce stigma and prejudice about religions which are not our own, through monthly discussion and reflection on our religious attitudes.
- To provide meaningful information and materials to our peers about world religions, through workshops and trips to places of religious significance.
We will increase my / our compassion by...
By listening to religious leaders from different faith backgrounds, we will be sure to increase our knowledge and understanding of other religions by asking questions and listening carefully to their expert opinions. In our attempts to gain greater knowledge and understanding we will use every opportunity to dispel the misconceptions we hold about others and their faith, in order to engage in productive dialogue with them.
How will you show courage?
We will actively seek out others' perspectives in order to put ourselves in their shoes. In doing so, we will do our best to understand their faith from their perspective, in order to understand why the rituals they practice and the texts they read form such an important part of their lives. We will also show courage by sharing our own views and by being open about often tricky and personal subjects, in order to educate others about our own religious and spiritual beliefs.
How will you collaborate with others?
We will begin by reading and learning about others' experiences engaging in interfaith dialogue, including reading about the experiences of students at Sinai Akiba Academy and the New Horizon School (http://facingtoday.facinghistory.org/inspiring-student-voices-reflect-on-an-interfaith-exchange). We will work closely with leaders from places of religious worship and cultural significance. By contacting them, we will ensure that our discussions about religion are as meaningful and in-depth as possible, including through visits each semester to sites of religious and cultural significance. We will work with our peers to read and understand religious texts, and use our knowledge to inform group discussions.
How will you know you are moving in the right direction? (What are specific ways you can measure your impact?)
We will encourage frequent reflection and consideration of the issues raised in each session, gathering student testimonies about their changing attitudes to other religious practices. We will listen carefully to what those involved in the discussions say, in particular to what they emphasize and focus on when discussing other religions. Are they able to approach the topics maturely, without blaming other religions for the world's problems, and instead seeing these conflicts from a different point of view? We aim to help people think about making compromises with those from other religious backgrounds, and to discuss issues in a solutions-focused way.
- To organize preliminary talks from experts within each religious fields
- Encourage and facilitate personal research and reflection in advance of trips / discussion groups
- Arrange to speak with lay people who practice each religion, giving them an opportunity to share their struggles and everyday experiences
- Contact religious institutions and museums to organize 2 trips each semester
- Learn about religious holidays and festivals to emphasize the importance of cultural ties to religions alongside the spiritual
- Establish rules for discussions about sensitive topics which are agreed upon by the group
How did the project deepen your team's understanding of the injustice?
The more you discuss issues of religious discord, the clearer the issue of misunderstanding between religious groups becomes. Most often misunderstandings are based on misconceptions.
How did your community change as a result of your project?
We all learned a great deal from being exposed to different religious practices, and were able to draw closer to one another as a result. This is particularly important for those who not regularly have the opportunity to discuss religious issues directly. This was particularly clear when we shared the experience of attending the Jewish Museum in a multi-faith grouped and learned more about Jewish traditions.
How many people were impacted by your project?
In addition to those directly impacted, are there additional people you feel were indirectly indirectly impacted or reached? If so, how many? (This might include people who read about your project, families of people that attended your workshops or received services, etc.)
2 student leaders have worked with 18 high school students so far.
How did your team learn more about the people affected by the injustice?
Experiencing discrimination on the grounds of religion, or in some way being involved with a religious dispute, can be a very demoralizing experience. This was clear when people shared their experiences of religious discrimination.
What did your team learn?
We learned that, in a way, we are all affected by the injustice of religious discord. It is impossible for the world to live in harmony when there is such disconnect and misunderstanding between religions.
How have you involved others in designing, carrying out, or expanding this project?
We have worked with the staff at religious organizations such as the Jewish Museum in order to plan interesting and enlightening experiences which help people to understand other religions better. We have also worked with Project Rousseau staff to plan and chaperon our events.
What advice would you give to someone starting a peacemaking project?
In this project, we have found compassionate listening to be a more helpful tool than one can possibly imagine. It is a must for all projects dealing with sensitive issues.