5 Reasons to Prioritize Interfaith Engagement Now
September 21, 2020
Since August, we’ve watched as colleges and universities rolled out plans for safely reopening campuses amidst an ongoing pandemic and introduced students to never-before-seen models of academic and residential life. Within weeks of reopening, spikes in positive cases of Covid-19 prompted multiple institutions to send students home again, while others, like the University of Notre Dame, pivoted quickly from in-person and hybrid classes to fully online learning. At UNC-Wilmington, students living in double rooms have been asked to move into single rooms. And determining who moves out and who gets to stay? That decision—potentially fraught with conflict—is left to the students.
During this upheaval, one might wonder how interfaith engagement could possibly be a priority right now. After all, institution leaders have to balance tightening budgets, faculty are navigating rapid shifts in how their courses are delivered, and staff are busy communicating and enforcing social distancing guidelines. Yet in addition to these weighty obligations, there are signs that prioritizing interfaith engagement on campus is critical. Here are five reasons why now is the time to prioritize interfaith engagement on campus:
Many of us are disoriented and anxious about the trauma higher education is undergoing right now, and it can be tempting to keep our heads down and wait out the storm until some sense of normalcy resumes. But the pandemic has laid bare issues of insularity and division—many of which are rooted in religious differences—and they require attention now. As Devorah Lieberman, President of the president of the University of La Verne, recently remarked, “I’d like us to think about our interfaith initiatives as a corollary to our PPE [personal protective equipment]. Physical PPE gives us the means to cope and be safe in the pandemic. Interfaith skills and commitment to [do] the same.”