One of my other colleagues left this summer. Gopal Das worked for the Chaplaincy for the last two years as one of our student Chaplains. Gopal made a great contribution to Chaplaincy communications – re-designing our website and our other digital and printed publicity. He developed our network to stay in touch with staff and students across three Colleges. Above all he turned Chaplaincy towards the Dharmic religions in a way we had never achieved before. So we had Sikh, Hindu and Buddhist groups regularly meeting in the Chaplaincy mainly as a result of Gopal’s work.
I wrote recently about Eboo Patel’s Interfaith Triangle for developing good relationships between people of different religions. So he says that knowing a person of a different religion increases knowledge which increases a positive attitude to their religion.Which, of course, makes possible deeper level conversations with other people of that religion which then sets off another positive trip around the triangle. Working with Gopal helped me complete many circuits of the interfaith triangle. As a Christian I learnt a great deal about Hinduism and especially Krishna Consciousness – I am so grateful for the personal contact and being able to work as part of a team.
Gopal is working for the Bhumi Project connected to the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies. He is now in India working with others to model good care of the environment at major Hindu Pilgrimage sites and to spread the environmental message back into Hindu communities around the world. There is more info about this at http://blog.bhumiproject.org/ and you can follow him on Twitter http://twitter.com/BhumiGopalPatel
The Interfaith Triangle was one of the simplest and best ideas I heard at the Global Chaplains’s Conference. It is an idea of Eboo Patel, the founder and director of the Interfaith Youth Core based in Chicago. Imperial students interested in interfaith have met with people from IFYC on a couple of occasions so I was keen to hear Eboo. Not a great photo but trust me the speaker is Eboo Patel!
The idea is that deepening relationships between people of different faiths requires knowledge of another religion, knowing people who practice that religion, and an openness and positive attitude to learning about a different religion. These are the three sides of the triangle. Any positive encounter or relationship across a religious difference will be moving through these three aspects. So getting to know someone of another faith is likely to lead to increased knowledge about it and a greater openness towards future learning and relationships. It does n’t matter where we start on the triangle. (But it does matter that we are going around it in a positive way! For example,using intentionally inaccurate knowledge of a religion can foster misunderstandings and poor relationships leading to unwarranted negative perceptions about that religion).
Here is Eboo Patel on the Interfaith Triangle in his own words
”The more I studied this area, the more I started to see attitudes, knowledge, and relationships as three sides of a triangle. If you know some (accurate and positive) things about a religion, and you know some people from that religion, you are far more likely to have positive attitudes toward that tradition and that community. The more favorable your attitude, the more open you will be to new relationships and additional appreciative knowledge. A couple of cycles around this triangle, and people from different faiths are starting to smile at each other on the streets instead of looking away or crossing to the other side.”
From ‘Sacred Ground’ and taken from an article in the Huffington Post by Josh Stanton
Imperial Interfaith held their first event of the year to mark the Jewish Festival of Succoth. They put up the traditional Succah tent as a reminder of the Jewish people’s time wandering in the desert after they had fled slavery in Egypt.
There was food on offer and information about future interfaith events – including the ‘How to do interfaith dialogue’ workshop hosted by Chaplaincy and led by Lucy Campion from Interact
There is a full article about the event and the back ground to Succoth in Felix
the Imperial College student newspaper – it’s a long pdf so head straight to page 41
Interfaith Dialogues continue in the Chaplaincy at 2.30pm on Wednesday 2nd and 9th November.
More details of Imperial Interfaith can be found on Facebook.
Here is the link to an article in the Guardian Online that Rory Fenton wrote about the need to find ways to have dialogue between religious and philosophical world views.
It gives a good account of some of the initiatives that have been tried by Imperial Interfaith to include the athiest and humanist viewpoints. Rory was Imperial College Student Union’s first Interfaith Officer, a post created last year.
In the public sphere the boundary betwee the religious and the secular points of view is not often marked by grace or hospitality on either side. This can be equally true in the Univeristy as well.It is good that students from different religions are thinking carefully about how to use the dialogue skills they practice amongst themselves to this other area of conflict bewteen religion and secularity.
Picture from the Imperial Interfaith T-Shirt.