Students discuss faith at interfaith dinner

by Grace Wyler | 11/17/06 6:00am

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by Danny Gobaud / The Dartmouth

The event began with presentations from five student speakers followed by dinner and small group discussions. The presentations, given by students from a variety of spiritual backgrounds, focused on what it means to be a student of faith at Dartmouth.

"Faith is pretty important to me on campus and this is an opportunity to share one person's way of finding faith at school," Meaghan Ferrick '07 said. Ferrick identifies herself as Christian and is involved in both Navigators and Aquinas House.

A few of the speakers also spoke to the various challenges that students of faith face daily at Dartmouth. These challenges included social labeling, ignorance and the social atmosphere on campus.

"It has been a struggle for me to live my life at Dartmouth with simplicity," Sally Elliot '07 said, "The culture here has elements of extravagance, wastefulness and arguably artificially stimulated wants." Elliot is a member of the Dartmouth Quaker Student Fellowship.

Michael Mina '06 spoke about his desire to see Dartmouth students become more open and accepting to different philosophies and faiths.

"If more people could keep their defensive guard from so quickly being raised near the crossroads of academia and religion or philosophy," Mina said, "this campus would certainly exist a warmer, more welcoming and accepting environment for students, faculty and staff to explore new ideas."

Mina's presentation focused on his experience as an ex-monk returning to Dartmouth after spending a year in Sri Lanka, where he lived in both a monastery and a refugee camp.

Speakers also highlighted the ways in which their faith has grown at Dartmouth.

"My faith is a way of connecting with people, it has made a lot of my friendships that much stronger," Ferrick said.

Dinner discussions centered on the difficulty that many students have reconciling their faith with the College's secular academic culture, as well as ways in which spirituality can develop on campus.

The event, which began three years ago, is designed to provide a space where students can foster mutual understanding by speaking openly about their spiritual and religious views, according to Jennifer Compton, Seminary Intern at the Tucker Foundation.

"It is not meant to be a debate, it's a place for discussion that makes people more aware of how faith grows on campus," Jillian Hamma '09, Tucker civic intern in the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life, "A lot of people consider themselves spiritual on campus but there is not really a forum to discuss it. This [Voices of Faith] is a place for people to share and think and hear about people's experiences."

Seventy percent of incoming Dartmouth students identify themselves as spiritual or religious people, according to the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life.

The Multi-Faith Initiative of the Tucker Foundation sponsored the event.

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