Reflecting on a Year as an Interfaith Fellow – Ben Wetherby

In this final blog post, I would like to reflect on my experiences as an Interfaith Fellow this year, sharing what I thought were the highlights. 

Our site visit to the Hindu Temple in Fitchburg was an incredible experience. The temple itself was beautiful, and it was clear the design and layout of the temple were carefully considered in every aspect. Additionally, we were able to participate in an informative lecture regarding Hinduism as both a culture and a religion. One fact that struck me was the practice of being both Hindu and participating in another religion. The Hindu journey seems to resemble a “to each their own” path, where the path to Enlightenment can look different for everyone. This was a fascinating characteristic that distinguishes Hinduism from religions with a stricter code prohibiting the worship of other deities. This characteristic supports the narrative that spirituality looks different for everyone and stresses the importance of increased understanding and knowledge of other religions as we work toward an integrated interfaith society. One of the greatest challenges of interfaith dialogue is a lack of understanding between participants. Although achieving a comprehensive understanding of all religions is difficult (if not impossible), the attempt to learn is an important step toward more fluent interfaith dialogue. 

I also felt that one of the most important achievements of this group of fellows was establishing an open environment that respected and encouraged interfaith dialogue. Growing up in a monocultural community, this was never something that I had the opportunity to participate in. Discussions such as these establish relationships that are built across religions. In an increasingly globalizing world, these relationships are the foundation that will help ground further connections. In some sense, religion defines who many people are; we must be able to connect through this medium. As a business student, relationship-building will be a fundamental aspect wherever I end up working. The connections I have made this year are indicators that relationships can be formed among any group of people.

Unfortunately, our end of the year event had to be cancelled because of the effects of Coronavirus. However, this does not change our goals nor intent as a group. We will continue to act as Interfaith facilitators, albeit likely from our own homes rather than the UW Madison campus. In this, the Internet is a great resource, and provides the opportunity to interact with others through faith forums. I hope to use what I have learned this year to create a more inclusive environment, whether this be through day-to-day interactions with friends or in my eventual professional field. This is not a light task to undertake, but it is one I look forward to continuing. As we wrap up this year of our Fellowship, I encourage others to step out of their comfort zones: connect with someone new, visit a religious site, or just look up a fact about a religion you may not know much about. Use the passion you have for interfaith and be the change you wish to see in the world. The importance of this issue cannot be overstressed: interfaith dialogue is the future, and we will be the pioneers guiding our society toward it.

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