Multifaith Community: An Experiment in Understanding
December 6, 2005
Mass. -- Can people of different religions
learn to live together peacefully? Can they find the commonalities
that faith implies?
Can they accept and respect their differences? This fall Wellesley
College launched its Multifaith Living and Learning Community
(MLLC), 11 students who share life on a floor of a residence
hall. Their faiths include Siddha Yoga, Jewish, Bahá’í,
Catholic, Unitarian-Universalist, Hindu, Seventh Day Adventist
and Protestant Christian.
“People of all faiths are welcome,” said charter member
and Wellesley senior Camille Inducil, 21, a Catholic from Auburn,
Washington. “We are not imposing our views on others but
This fall, for example, the group sponsored a Sukkot dinner on
the chapel lawn, cooked by senior Jessica Bell, 21, who is Jewish
and from Woodbridge, Connecticut.
only did we learn about the holiday of Sukkot but we shared our
own traditions,” said Deborah Cady, the MLLC advisor, who
also is a member of Wellesley's religious and spiritual
life team as the Catholic chaplain. “It
raised a variety of issues beyond a simple meal together.”
are working to reach out to the rest of the Wellesley campus,
is one of the most diverse in the nation.
Among their goals is to start a kitchen that serves both Jewish
kosher and Muslim Halaal foods. “The kitchen would follow
the requirements of both religious traditions,” said Bell.
In addition, a project
is in the works to collect personal stories of spiritual reflections
from across the campus community. “This
doesn’t mean people necessarily have to have a faith,” said
Inducil, “just stories about faith in general.”
A multifaith living
option is all about building relationships, according to MLLC
members. As Bell put it, “People always
say to keep the peace, you don’t talk about religion and
politics. We do. It makes our interactions much more honest.”
Cady agreed, adding, “That
way, we can deal with the conflict if one is arises.”
For some it is also
a chance to be seen as an individual. “This
is a great opportunity to see the person behind their faith,” noted
Wellesley sophomore Catherine Walline, 19, a member of the Bahá’í Student
Association and a resident of Factoryville, Pennsylvania.
Wellesley has become a leader in a new national emphasis on religion
and college, said Victor Kazanjian, dean of religious and spiritual
life. Since 1996, Kazanjian and others at have led the Transformation
Project, which sets goals for religious pluralism in higher education.
Its first event attracted 800 participants from 250 U.S. educational
institutions. The MLLC is its direct outgrowth.
“Wellesley is exploring a new model of interreligious dialog
and conflict resolution,” he said. “We have established
a model for other colleges and universities, and created a team
of students and religious leaders.”
Wellesley’s highly diverse student population allows it
to take the lead in multifaith matters. “We’ve got
the numbers nobody else has, that let us understand how a minority
group gets recognized and how to create a living and learning community
together,” Kazanjian said.
Once students move onto the wider world, he added, the chance
to learn from other cultures is harder to find.
“Outside of college, people are far more separated and
divided from each other,” he said. “College offers
the perfect opportunity to understand the dynamics and develop
strategies for people to understand each other.”
For more information on the Multifaith Living and Learning Community
at Wellesley College, go to http://new.wellesley.edu/RelLife/multi_faith/team.html.
Since 1875, Wellesley College has been a leader in providing an
excellent liberal-arts education for women who will make a difference
in the world. Its 500-acre campus near Boston is home to 2,300
undergraduate students from all 50 states and 68 countries. For
more information, go to www.wellesley.edu.
of the Multifaith Living and Learning Community enjoy a Sukkot
Walline, Camille Inducil and Jessica Bell, from left, are three
of the 11 Wellesley students who live in the Multifaith Living
and Learning Community.