A day-long workshop focusing on interfaith dialogue and training will be held Feb. 24 at Simpson College.
The event, which is open to college students, faculty and staff, is supported by a $6,000 grant from the Interfaith Youth Core, whose staff will help facilitate the workshop. Six colleges will be represented.
Maeve Callan, associate professor of religion at Simpson, said the training will be accessible for newcomers to interfaith dialogue, as well as those who are farther along their journey.
Callan and Chaplain Mara Bailey have been organizing the event in collaboration with Tim Knepper, a professor of philosophy at Drake University, and representatives of the Des Moines Area Religious Council.
The workshop will begin with reflecting on how interfaith engagement intersects with college mission statements and how colleges might develop strategies for enhancing interfaith awareness and engagement on campus, moving it from a niche to a norm.
The second session focuses on strengthening skills for negotiating challenging conversations relating to religion, when people feel passionately about conflicting values and concerns, so that we can more fully consider opposing viewpoints and work together to find common ground.
After lunch, workshop participants will hear from Knepper, who worked with students and colleagues to produce a book on religious diversity in the Des Moines area and how he has recently started an interfaith summer camp for teens.
Knepper and some of his students will explain the secrets of their success and then help participants reflect on how they might do something similar with their own local communities.
The workshop will culminate with college teams (i.e., students, faculty, and staff from a given college) developing an action plan to build on their assets on campus and in their local communities, so that they can strengthen interfaith awareness and positive engagement in meaningful ways. Teams will then present their plans to others at the workshop.
The day will end with a celebratory dinner and a keynote address by Balpreet Kaur, an interfaith activist who received international acclaim as a college student when she demonstrated exceptional grace and integrity when explaining her Sikh customs in response to a callous comment on Reddit.
The next day, Feb. 25, workshop participants will be invited to a celebration of Des Moines’ religious diversity at Drake University. That event is open to the public.