Fall Faith Fest brings students together to continue conversation on religion

Meghan Morris, Reporter

Interfaith Hall brought members of various faith communities together for an evening of food, speeches and performances to celebrate Northwestern’s religious diversity.

Wednesday night’s event, “Fall Faith Fest,” is NU’s first banquet promoting dialogue about the multiple beliefs practiced on campus.

Adam Rothenberg, Interfaith Hall co-president, said his group worked since the beginning of Fall Quarter to prepare the event, which drew about 80 students and community members to Parkes Hall.

“It’s become apparent in the last year that diversity is an important issue now more than ever,” said the Bienen and Weinberg sophomore.

The event kicked off with a half hour of speeches from various members of the NU administration, including Tim Stevens, University chaplain; Patricia Telles-Irvin, vice president for student affairs; and Lesley-Ann Brown, director of campus inclusion and community. The three said they shared a vision for discussion and respect with regard to religious differences on campus.

“The rich diversity of religious expression is a gift to the Northwestern community,” Stevens said. “Our beliefs and practices are distinct, but they all value compassion.”

Telles-Irvin reminded the audience of the purpose of continued communication. She said being an NU student is about learning empirically in research-based classes, but also about personal education and growth.

“By engaging with and understanding one another, we’ll become a stronger university,” Telles-Irvin said. “You as students have so much to teach us.”

Brown also spoke about the importance of bridging differences to work together. She said issues of diversity and inclusion are complex and cannot be solved or fixed quickly.

“For a long time, higher education has moved away from discussions of spirituality,” she said. “Events like this help us remember how important conversations can be.”

After the speeches, University Chaplain Tahera Ahmad recognized seven students from various groups on campus for their contributions to the university-wide religious conversation. These students were nominated for recognition prior to the event.

The audience then took a moment of silence to bless the meal. While people ate a catered dinner, two dance groups – Mirch and Raas – and a capella group THUNK performed.

Planning committee member Anisa Mian said Fall Faith Fest is meant to foster collaboration among groups without the intent to solve a specific problem on campus. She said this type of discussion would not occur without a venue such as Wednesday’s event.

“A lot of people think that NU is made up of a lot of little communities and they don’t feel that greater Wildcat pride,” the SESP sophomore said. “The point of this fall event is to bring people from all different groups into the same room.”

Weinberg sophomore Carrie Langhauser said she came to the event because of an interest in interfaith dialogue.

“I’m from a small town where there’s not a lot of religious diversity,” she said. “It’s important especially at the college level to explore a lot of different facets of the world, and religion is something that’s often overlooked when talking about diversity.”