Students sitting on the floor in a circle with a woman sitting on a chair leading a group exercise.

Finding Unity in Diversity

By Roudah Chaker, C’24

Students sitting on the floor in a circle with a woman sitting on a chair leading a group exercise.

Rabbi Rachel Gartner (sitting on the chair in the middle), leads students through the “In My Shoes” reflection activity.

As a Muslim student at Georgetown, the past few months have been a challenging journey, navigating through a landscape marred by current events that have cast a shadow of Islamophobia over my daily life. Amidst this backdrop, learning about the opportunity to attend an Interfaith Retreat felt like a beacon of hope. It promised a chance to step away from the prejudices and misunderstandings that have become all too familiar and find solace and understanding in the company of those who, though different in faith, shared similar experiences of marginalization.

Initially, my feelings were a mixture of hope and apprehension. There was a part of me that was eager to connect with students from other marginalized backgrounds and faith groups, but another part feared the vulnerability that comes with such openness. Would my experiences and feelings be understood and respected, or would they be met with the same misconceptions and stereotypes that I was facing so regularly? 

My worries were unfounded as the retreat was nothing short of transformative. It provided a space that was both safe and sacred, allowing us to share our stories, fears, and hopes with an openness that I had not anticipated. I was moved by the honesty and vulnerability of my peers, who came from a myriad of faith traditions yet shared a common desire for understanding and unity.

One of the most impactful moments of the retreat came during the “In My Shoes” reflection activity. In this exercise, I was paired with a member of the Jewish Students Association, an encounter that, under normal circumstances, might have never occurred given the distinct paths we walk in our faith journeys. 

Despite the differences in our religious practices and beliefs, we discovered a shared narrative of finding solace and salvation in our faiths amidst the challenges of college life. This conversation illuminated the unexpected parallels in our experiences—how both of us had encountered moments of doubt and isolation, yet found a sense of belonging and acceptance within the Georgetown faith community. The Chaplaincy, with its open doors and open hearts, had been instrumental in this process, offering us a sanctuary where we could explore and deepen our spiritual lives without judgment. This unexpected exchange was a testament to the retreat’s ability to break down barriers and foster genuine understanding. Sharing this experience with someone from a different faith tradition not only challenged my preconceptions but also highlighted the universal search for meaning and community that transcends religious boundaries. It was a powerful reminder of the common humanity that binds us, regardless of our faith backgrounds.

As I reflect on my time at the retreat, I’m filled with gratitude for the opportunity to have been a part of such a meaningful experience. It has reinforced my belief in the importance of creating spaces where diverse communities can come together to share, learn, and grow. The connections I formed and the insights I gained have been a source of strength and inspiration, reminding me that in the face of adversity, we can find unity in our diversity.

Roudah Chaker, (C’24) is the Treasurer for the CMSF (Campus Ministry Student Forum) Executive Board.