There is much to be said for those who actively seek out different ideologies and make it their goal to discover, discuss and comprehend those beliefs. It is this goal that the members of the Interfaith Living Learning Community (LLC) attempt to incorporate into their lives.
At the interest session held on Wednesday, Feb. 9, Interfaith members Diego Villasenor ‘13, Michael Barrett ‘12, and Alan Schmalstig ‘12, along with Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) Graduate Assistant Althea Miller, gathered to explain what drew them to the LLC: its history and importance on campus and the mission to define “Interfaith.”
Founded in Fall 2010, Interfaith is a student-run LLC located in a four-person suite in Sutton. A collaborative effort between The Office of Residential Life and OMA, the organization works toward “fostering a mutual understanding and compassion for each other” while stressing the importance of global citizenship and growth through the insight and knowledge that comes with encountering different spiritual traditions.
There is no specific religion that is represented by the LLC, as evidenced by Villasenor who was raised Catholic but is now Buddhist, and Barrett (Interfaith LLC co-founder), also raised Catholic, but who now lives according to his own religion. With distinct beliefs, living together provides the opportunity to engage in meaningful conversations about individual practices and philosophies. These opportunities are aided by the required visits to religious sites with LLC members, such as the group’s recent visit to the nearby Guang Ming Buddhist Temple.
Like all of OMA’s culturally-based organizations, no one is expected to be well-versed in any particular religion, or to even identify with one. All that is expected is an open mind allowing for mutually beneficial discussion. Even the interest session sparked discussion because several religious symbols were displayed, such as those from Islam, Unitarianism, Scientology, Atheism, The Bahá’í Faith and indigenous spiritual practices. Attendees delved into stories about Catholic school upbringing, terrifying nuns and convents, and finally the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism. These types of conversations are valuable, especially on a campus such as ours and in a world that is so diverse. With open dialogue, there comes a mutual understanding and respect that can hopefully remove the hindrances that we often have when it comes to relating to people.
The LLC members also make it a point to provide leadership opportunities by recruiting potential new members, implementing outreach programs, planning weekly meetings, and attending workshops and conferences.
Favorable circumstances are created that allow for personal growth on campus in establishing a role in the Rollins community, finding your niche, and living out the experience of continued learning away from textbooks and scantrons.
Co-president Schmalstig says that the Interfaith LLC “has helped me to make new friends, learn about religion and given me a place to belong. I am much more involved on campus. I enjoy traveling to places of worship with the Interfaith group that I might not have visited by myself. I finally feel like I belong at Rollins in the Interfaith Living Learning Community. Because of Interfaith I have been introduced to many new religions and beliefs through social interaction instead of just learning about them in the classroom.”
In defining his religion, Barrett says, “we are all interdependent beings.” The Interfaith LLC (as well as the Interfaith Club) plays an important part in understanding not only others but also ourselves as we relate to other people.
Interested in Interfaith club? For more information on the Interfaith Living Learning Community at Sutton or the Interfaith Club (you do not have to live on campus to join the Interfaith Club), visit rollins.edu/multiculturalaffairs or email Althea Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org.