Georgetown: A Sanctuary for Religious Practice, a Ground for Interfaith Service Programs

Attending the Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) Conference in Chicago this summer has made me appreciate the many religious services available in Georgetown. Compared to other institutions, Georgetown is quite advanced in providing resources for student worship on campus. From her extensive Chaplaincy (now including a Hindu Chaplain!) to her various worship spaces, Georgetown is inclusive of many faith traditions while maintaining her traditional Jesuit identity.

As a Muslim student, I attend daily Isha prayers in the Copley prayer room, weekly Jummah prayer in Bulldog Alley, and enjoy discussions of Islamic religious and political thought with my peers. Few other institutions represented at the conference had such spaces for Islamic worship, a fact that made my appreciation for Georgetown grow. As a Hoya, I am also free to attend Sunday Mass in Dahlgren Chapel, Orthodox services in Copley Crypt Chapel, Protestant services in St. Williams Chapel, Shabbat services in Makom, and Pujas in Makom. With these resources in mind, I struggled with the idea of improving an already inclusive religious atmosphere. How can we make religious life in Georgetown better? Thankfully, attending the IFYC conference has given me some insight.

During the IFYC conference, students discussed methods of mobilizing interfaith programs on campus as part of the “Better Together” campaign. Conference participants trained to be leaders who organize interfaith projects on campus. Through this experience, I realized that students can enhance interfaith dialogue in Georgetown by engaging in service projects together. As Hoyas, we take pride in the sixteen diverse Campus Ministry student groups on campus. However, we could capitalize on the presence of such diversity, and mobilize interfaith programs incorporating more than one religious student organization.
Service is a common value of many, if not all, faiths and is essentially part of Georgetown’s identity. Each religious and non-religiously affiliated group upholds cura personalis through service. The goal is not to invent the wheel here, but to catalyze interfaith dialogue by engaging diverse religious groups in service projects that may have already been organized and executed before. By having students from different faith backgrounds work together on a service project, students will have the opportunity to talk to one another about their faith, and the role their faith plays in their lives.

The conference also taught me the importance of defining what “interfaith” means. Interfaith projects are not restricted to students more tightly associated to a religious tradition; students who identify as humanist, atheist, agnostic, or are unaffiliated with any titles are certainly included in this interfaith initiative. “Interfaith” here simply means across faiths and non-faiths. No group is excluded in the campaign that seeks to integrate students from all religious affiliations/non-affiliations.

Interfaith dialogues are central to disseminating tolerance and combating any negativity people have toward certain religions. Such a dialogue can be opened through cooperation of various student organizations during service projects. Just talking to a student of a different faith about their interpretation of their religion promotes this interfaith dialogue, and a greater understanding of the differences that make each faith beautiful.

Hager Koraym (new window), COL ’15