When Director for the Center for Faith and Vocation (CFV) Daniel Meyers took part in the Efroymson Diversity Center of Butler University’s “Discussions in the DC” in 2016, he felt the event vocalized the sentiments surrounding interfaith issues percolating on campus.
As the forward-looking panels spoke to identity components such as race, gender, religion, and spirituality, Meyers said the conversation sparked the idea of making religious identity part of diversity work.
Students, particularly Salman Qureshi, agreed. Qureshi’s interest soon led him to become the CFV’s interfaith intern and drive the genesis of the Interfaith Council.
The CFV’s Interfaith Council is comprised of 12 students of a variety of different faith traditions who host conversations and build relationships among one another. The council shares its traditions and stories with students of all backgrounds.
Meeting that goal played out through a social media effort that asked Butler students to answer on Instagram: “What is interfaith?” The prompt came the day after the 2016 presidential election, when students were likely asking many questions as they witnessed the first transfer of Presidential power in their young adult lives.
“It’s been valuable to have a group of students who know each other so well, who don’t all agree or share the same beliefs, so that when something happens in the world, we can ask them, ‘What do you think needs to be addressed?’” Meyers said.
According to Meyers, as the nation and the culture change, Butler’s students have a resource ready to provide assistance when they may feel they need to respond to current events.
The CFV, established by a Lilly Endowment grant, co-written by Butler University Professor Paul Valliere more than a decade ago, now hosts the Interfaith Council, but has always served as the navigation point for students on their journey through college.
“The CFV is home to 13 student groups, supports interns, and hosts meetings in the Blue House seven days per week—from study night to meditation space, yoga and a ‘Big Questions,’ lunch series,” explained CFV Assistant Director Marguerite Stanciu.
Among these activities, CFV facilitates students thinking about the questions the world is challenging them to answer—relating to society and to one’s self—in a supported space.
This is partly done through the CFV’s longstanding program: The Butler University Seminar on Religion and Global Affairs. “It has always been about going around the globe and looking through the lens of different religious and cultural perspectives at subjects such as religion and global health. It is a rigorous academic environment designed to be accessible for the general public,” Stanciu said.
The CFV, and the issues its programing may address, are transforming, but it continues to fulfill its mission.
“The CFV is within Academic Affairs, which is important. It means that the underpinning of our mission is that we are part of the learning experience at the heart of the institution,” Meyers said.
The vocational reflection that the CFV hopes results from its programming is expected to be a part of the academic journey. The many big questions posed help students with the most important ones: “What are you studying, and how is it going to make the difference that you want to make in the world?” Meyers said.