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Interfaith space brings students together

Interfaith space brings students together

March 17th, 2017 by Helen Wilbers in Local News

Westminster College student Sydney Franklin puts a stone representing a blessing into a fountain at the dedication of the campus' new interfaith space. The space, located at the Center for Faith and Service, serves as a place of worship, prayer or meditation for students of all faith backgrounds.

Photo by Helen Wilbers /Fulton Sun.

Within the serene purple walls of Westminster College's interfaith prayer room, water trickles through a small fountain. One by one, participants in Thursday's dedication ceremony placed tiny pebbles in the fountain, each representing a hope — or prayer — for the space.

That kind of thoughtfulness and unity is exactly what the space is meant to foster, according to Maeba Jonas, chaplain resident and coordinator of community engagement at Westminster.

"We've had a lot of discussion about establishing an interfaith space here," Jonas said.

She felt the Center for Faith and Service would be the ideal location and was able to obtain a grant to modify a room upstairs into a quiet space. It contains prayer mats, a candle and holy books from various religions.
"We did a holy book drive," Jonas said.

A mosque and a synagogue in Columbia donated several texts, as did other local churches. Jonas said community members are welcome to donate as well.

Students can visit at any time and may also reserve the room.

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"Some students reserve the space for daily Muslim prayer, and one student uses it for Tai Chi," Jonas said. "Our meditation group meets there as well."

During the dedication ceremony, students and staff representing varied faith backgrounds offered blessings for the space. Shafa Fathimath recited a passage from the Quran.

"We have brought our dreams for the community, the values we cherish most," student Paige Nichols said.
For student Khaled Khalili, the interfaith room fills a major gap in his campus experience.

"I've always been used to having a place for prayers and meditation, whether that be at home or near a mosque," Khalili said. "Not having a space here, as a Muslim, has been difficult."

He feels the space will also bring people of different religious backgrounds together.

Student Sireen Tamrakar shared a similar opinion.

"We all have our own perspective on our own faith, but we often don't know about other faiths," Tamrakar said. "Here, we might find similarities and also differences that we may appreciate."

Dean of Faculty Carolyn Perry thinks the interfaith space is in keeping with Westminster's inclusive tradition.
"We are intentionally a diverse campus," Perry said. "I love that we have a way to honor all faith traditions and bring them together."