I started off the Interfaith Fellowship Program with a goal: use interfaith dialogue to make society more flexible in thought. Halfway through the year, I realized that the first step in achieving this goal was to listen to others more actively by seeking to understand the other person’s perspective. I left my last blog post with a question: How can I listen better, and how can I help other people listen better, too? I cannot say that I know or will ever know the answer to this question, but I can say that my time with CRGC has provided me with the framework I need to answer it.
A lot has happened over what feels like a very short year both personally and with the Center. In the latter case, we Fellows have established ourselves as an essential part of diversity and faith organizations on campus over the last 9 months: we successfully hosted an Interfaith Conference, we instituted Interfaith Week, and we collaborated with a plethora of organizations both on and off campus. In this way, it was a year of great growth and learning as we spent countless hours planning, designing, assembling, and marketing our various events. It was exhausting, but the experience has left me inspired and in awe about how much one small group can accomplish in so little time.
I have experienced some deeply personal theological and philosophical discussions that I would not have been able to navigate without the help of the Center. Being able to openly talk about religious beliefs with others is one thing, but I am now able to connect my religion and my interfaith experiences into almost every aspect of my life. Listening to others, particularly the perspectives represented in the Center, has helped me challenge and affirm my own beliefs while giving others the ability to share their own. I struggled being the only practicing Catholic in the group, and trying to represent my religion clearly and accurately despite continuous persecution from the media. I struggled being the only Chinese-American and mixed-raced person in the group as well. There were many times I had to push my comfort zone to speak my mind; there were many times it was very difficult for me to listen to others, and many times it was very difficult for others to listen to me. With the help of some very encouraging words from friends inside and outside the Center, I was able to persevere. Because of this, I feel like the Center has helped me grow spiritually, mentally, and professionally.
All this being said, the question still remains: was the Center productive in cultivating listening and promoting Interfaith Dialogue on campus? I can personally say that the Center has deeply influenced the way I think and hear interfaith dialogue. As for the latter? Campus knows about the Center thanks to our hard work this year; now we have to show them what we can do.