Speed faithing a huge success
On November 1st, 2011, Dominican University looked like it had put on its finest tuxedo and was ready to host the World’s Fair…or something of the sort. The parking lots were filled and people flowed into Lewis Hall like they were coming to claim their winning lottery ticket. However, everyone was asking where the Chapel was.
The Chapel was about to be the venue where Dr. Eboo Patel was to give his lecture on interfaith cooperation. The students of Dr. Patel’s and Cassie Meyer’s class had an amazing “speed faithing” event immediately following the lecture. Being a part of this enlightening class, I was fortunate enough to be a part of the planning. And boy did it pay off! The Chapel could not have looked any better. Lights and balloons hung from the entryway, hundreds of chairs overflowed from the chapel into the reading room, and Chartwells put their finest catering skills to the test. The guests were left in suspense for what the night was about to entail.
When everyone took their seats, and seating was at capacity, Dr. Eboo Patel presented an inspiring lecture on the importance of interfaith literacy. Hundreds of people from different backgrounds, religious identities, and cultures attended, many of whom had never heard of interfaith.
Dr. Patel presented the audience with examples of how public opinion can shift in short periods of time. He gave an example of President Kennedy’s campaign at a time when Catholics were viewed unfavorably and the fear of a Church-State unification. Today, Americans view Catholics as one of the most favorable religions. Dr. Patel repeatedly exemplified the importance of interfaith cooperation and how it can directly relate to how one views another religion. Many Americans come ill-equipped with the skills to instigate a discussion outside their own religion. This is foremost, the reason for misconceptions about people of a certain faith, for example Muslims. Since the rise of terrorism and Muslim extremists, people have been skeptical about what the meaning of Islam is all about. Without knowledge of the world’s religions, it is easy to come to premature conclusions. He iterated, “only knowing the bad of something, how can one view it favorably?”
Our class put Dr. Patel’s presentation into action by allowing participants to engage in their own interfaith dialogue. Two rows of chairs were set up to face one another so that the participants could get lost in conversation with the person across from them. Every two minutes, one side shifted down a seat to meet a new acquaintance ready to conquer the next question. 70+ people joined in on this “speed faithing” event. I did not see one closed mouth. Questions like, “What do you value in your faith or non-faith? What is your idea of an ideal world? Is interfaith possible and how can it be accomplished?” were presented to the speed faithers. It was a huge success! People eagerly exposed their religious values and found that they were analogous with their new friends of different faiths. Laughter, smiles, and head nodding were non-stop.
45 minutes later, the event ended but the conversations continued into the halls. In this short time period we were able to organically equip one another for future interfaith dialogue. These same people who entered the room 2 hours ago unfamiliar or doubtful of interfaith cooperation were now pros in meaningful interfaith conversation – a huge step in eliminating misconceptions and skepticism. Such a simple thing, such a huge reward.
Large scale Interfaith cooperation is a vast reality in the near future! All that it takes is an open mind, motivation, and you!
by Brad London