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Students attend interfaith leadership forum

At the annual Interfaith Leadership Institute in New York City in May, participants were asked to describe what interfaith work means to them. Lindsey Bressler, CSSH’18, one of the representatives from Northeastern, noted that it means working with a diverse group of people.

“I’ve been really interested in interfaith work as a whole,” said Bressler of her colleagues at Northeastern’s Center for Spirituality, Dialogue and Service. “Going to the center is an experience that is nothing short of ultimate compassion and love. Everyone is so accepting, and open, and willing to listen. I have never been in an environment like that before.”

Bressler, a member of Northeastern Hillel and a second-year student studying economics and international affairs, was one of eight Northeastern students who attended the three-day conference, which aimed to equip undergraduates, staff, and faculty from colleges nationwide with the skills to engage diverse religious and non-religious identities to build the interfaith movement on their campuses.

Eboo Patel, Northeastern’s inaugural interfaith leadership fellow founded Interfaith Youth Core, an organization hosting the annual event.

Northeastern’s Center for Spirituality, Dialogue and Service—which is located in Ell Hall and is home to the Sacred Space—serves and supports the spiritual, religious, and social justice commitments of the university community. The center designs innovative programs that explore spirituality, religious diversity, intercultural competence, and civic engagement at the local and global level. This includes working with 28 student groups and offering opportunities for worship and meditation sessions as well as opportunities for dialogue, service, social action, and global leadership development.

“What we learned while at this conference is that Northeastern is leading the way in terms of promoting and fostering interfaith relationships on a college campus,” said Patrick B. Reyes, the center’s program manager for spirituality, education, and dialogue initiatives.

Understanding how students with different religious beliefs engage with one another is just as important to the center as offering spiritual support, said Shaya Gregory Poku, program manager for global learning, service, and social action initiatives and program director of Northeastern’s Social Justice Resource Center.

This was the second year Northeastern participated in the Interfaith Leadership Institute. The annual event, Reyes noted, represents the quintessential opportunity for students to share their work with other universities and learn how to better engage the entire campus community.

“I learned new approaches to getting others engaged and interested in creating mutual relationships of respect and understanding of those from different faith backgrounds,” said Michelle Wangrow, BHS’16, a physical therapy student.

Wangrow got involved with the center after forming the Latter-day Saint Student Association in 2011. The center, she said, not only provides an open environment to learn about different religious beliefs, but has also helped strengthen her own faith community.

“The LDSSA now meets twice a week, and this has given me the opportunity to grow stronger within my community and reach out to those who are members or are interested in learning about our faith,” Wangrow said.