Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Elon University's 'Multi-Faith Religious Program' - What a Wonderful Endeavor

I could not be more proud of Elon University than I am today.  You see, I attended Elon in the late '60s and was an athlete.  Elon athletics is often a source of my pride in Elon.  Today, my pride in Elon is based of my exposure to Elon's Multi-Faith Religious Life Program during my weekly Life@eElon course.  What a beautiful program it is.

Construction is under way on campus of a new multi-faith center in the Academic Village. The magnificent center will be a place for prayer, meditation and reflection in the heart of campus, respecting the differing customs of students' religious and spiritual traditions. The multi-faith center will encourage a robust dialogue about religion on campus, exploring what unifies us in our common humanity and promoting the values served by deeper interfaith collaboration. The program will include, among others, a Campus Muslim Coordinator, 8 students interns (4 interfaith and an Atheist interfaith), and a graduate assistant for Christian unity.

The program will be coordinated by The Rev. Dr. Janet Fuller.  A dynamic speaker and leader, Janet
is the new campus chaplain, after having spent 24 years in a similar role at Hollins College, and a number of years as Baptist Chaplin at Yale University while serving as a Professor in the Divinity School there.  As a child, she grew up in Lebanon where her parents were American Christian missionaries. 

The program at Elon is the result of a letter President Obama sent to all college and university presidents in America asking them to establish laboratories to promote multi-religious understanding and respect (although a similar program had been envisioned).  Elon President Leo Lambert wholeheartedly embraced the concept and became a leader in President Obama's effort. 

Janet told a wonderful story about, as a child, sharing prayer time in the Muslim tradition with her best friend, a Lebanese Muslim little girl in Beruit.  The little girl, likewise, shared in Christian prayer time around the table with Janet and her devout Christian family.  Each grew to embrace and respect the religious tradition and faith of the other, while remaining firmly committed to their own faith (throughout life).  That, said Janet, is the goal of the Elon Multi-Faith Religious Program.

I can think of no more important and worthy endeavor for a college campus than to help young men and women embrace and develop respect for religious traditions of others, while holding firm to their own.  Toward the end of class today, I had a rather simple, although somewhat counter-intuitive thought, with which I will close ............'We are going to save the world and achieve God's Kingdom, not by better embracing and honoring our own faith, but by embracing, respecting, honoring, and embracing the faith of our neighbors.' God Bless Elon University's effort to that end, and kudos to The Rev. Dr. Janet Fuller for her leadership and to Presidents Leo Lambert and Barack Obama for their vision and leadership in this crucial endeavor.

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