CCBP Graduate Assistant
UA Crossroads hosted Explore Better Together on August 29 in the Ferguson Center Great Hall. About 50 students, faculty, staff and community members attended the interfaith event.
The main goal of this third session in the series, according to Crossroads Director Lane McLelland, was to share religious and secular beliefs. “We have held it each year during UA’s Week of Welcome to emphasize that interfaith cooperation is a value supported and upheld at UA,” she said.
One activity was “speed faithing” in which different believers and non-believers listen to belief summaries, giving all attendees an opportunity to discuss and learn. This activity draws on work of the national organization Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC).
Attendees met with Ben and Kylee Hansen, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Campus Ministry, representing Mormon traditions; Bianca Levy and Paulina Bullard, Bama Hillel Student Center, representing Judaism; Rev. John Fleischauer, Wesley Foundation, United Methodist Church, representing Protestantism; Sarah Saeed, Tuscaloosa Muslim community member, representing Islam; Parnab Das, South Asian Society, representing Hinduism; Father Rick Chenault, St. Francis Church, representing Catholicism; and Stephen Cooper and Alex Hoffmann, representing the Crimson Secular Student Alliance.
Ben Hansen, sophomore accounting major from Provo, Utah, said misconceptions about his religion happen occasionally, and people coming together from different backgrounds can build greater understanding and respect for each other.
Paulina Bullard, a sophomore dance major from Olive Branch, Mississippi, said Judaism is often not well understood and that the event was a “great way to communicate because it is safe.” Noting the atmosphere of the event was respectful and professional, she said, “Only positivity can come out of this.”
Junior marketing major Corey Harris from Montgomery learned of the event only two hours beforehand and immediately decided to come. He found Hinduism the most interesting because representative Parnab Das explained how Hinduism overlaps with and differs from Buddhism.
“I think a lot more students should come,” said Harris, “because it gives you new ways of thinking of your own religion.”
Sophomore biology and religious studies major Jarred Collins from Birmingham said he believes science and religion do not contradict each other. “[Tonight] really opened my eyes,” he said. Although one can learn about religions from books and professors, nothing can be compared to “talking to people who really believe in them,” he said.