By: Georgetown University Knights of Columbus
Embracing the interfaith imperative of the Catholic Church, the Georgetown University Knights of Columbus co-sponsored a campus-wide “Inter-faith Week.”
Our efforts to encourage Georgetown students to participate in the university’s Jesuit values of interreligious understanding and community in diversity were met with enthusiasm and co-sponsorship from eight other Campus Ministry student organizations.
Throughout the week, participants were invited to experience first-hand the religious rituals of faith traditions that span the globe and that represent nearly three quarters of its population.
At the close of the week, students came together to participate in a community service event where they packed 200 sets of toiletries to be sent to International Orthodox Christian Charities and distributed to people in need in war-torn Syria. The Orthodox Christian Fellowship sponsored the event, after which students were invited for fellowship over a pizza dinner.
In order to gain a first-hand perspective of the impact that this initiative had on its participants, the Knights asked for reflections from students regarding their reactions to the services of the faith traditions that they attended.
We have included these reactions below.
Hindu Prayer Service
I found the experience to be enlightening and focusing on one’s mental health. It was a nice relaxing time. I was glad to be in attendance.
-Anonymous Catholic Student
I found the Hindu religion to contain an internally incisive view of one’s placement in the context of the central forces of their lives, as well as of their mental state generally. The meditation promoted a sense of mindfulness that was energizing even for someone like me who does not practice what I have learned is not one centralized religion, but a diverse collection of faiths. The prayers and accompanying music allowed for a realization of the metaphysical underpinning of all things. I am glad that I attended and would recommend others to do so to witness a vibrant culture and a strong community. I only regret that I could not stay for dinner!
Protestant Sunday Worship
Protestant Sunday worship was filled with powerful songs in praise of God. In the service, I found a practical message encouraging one to allow their goodness and light to outshine the dark places in their life and to embody the positive moral teachings of God.
I very much enjoyed the chance to attend the Protestant service Sunday evening. I loved the incredible music and believe that the service created a rich environment for prayer and fellowship. The sermon was powerful and the prayers were moving, and it was great learning about both the similarities and differences between a Protestant and Catholic service.
-Hunter Estes, SFS ’19
The Catholic Mass was quiet and reflective, with beautiful singing and a sermon that encouraged people to actuate their beliefs in their daily lives. It was a valuable and peaceful way to conclude my evening.
Orthodox Christian Vespers
Vespers was a beautiful ceremony. I really enjoyed the chanting which lifted up the voices of the people to God in such an inspiring fashion. I am very thankful that we were invited to be a part of this service.
-Hunter Estes, SFS ’19
I found the experience of Buddhist Zazen meditation, otherwise known as Zen meditation, to be a spiritually fulfilling endeavor. By focusing on one’s breath and upon their feelings, one can take stock of their mental state, which is often lost in the hustle and bustle of campus life. Through meditation, one can become more present in their day-to-day activities.
As a Catholic who has never had any Muslim friends or virtually any exposure to Islam at all, I was quite excited to see what I would discover attending my first Jum’ah service. Above all, I found the imam’s message about gratitude and thanksgiving especially powerful. Growing up, I’ve heard the idea of being thankful to God for all one has multiple times, but I have never been so convinced of that idea until I heard the imam’s articulation of it. I also noticed a common thread between the Abrahamic faiths in their emphasis on this virtue, as “Eucharist”, the source and summit of Christian life according to the Catholic Church’s Second Vatican Council, and “Jew”, or “Yehudi” in Hebrew, both etymologically mean thanksgiving. And I could not be more thankful for the vibrancy of religious expression found on our campus and in our world.
-Melvin Thomas, COL ’18
I found that the Muslim ritual of praying with the whole body in motion was an effective way to show our submission to a higher power, and that the teaching on gratefulness for every aspect of one’s life showed a deeply ingrained sense of humility that was refreshing to see in our world.
As a Buddhist, it pangs me dearly to hear of the suffering of our Muslim brothers and sisters in Rakhine state. We must all come together in the interreligious tradition of love and reject hatred in whatever false name it uses.
-Anthony Saya, MSB ’18
The joyous celebration of Shabbat allowed me to experience the vibrancy of the Jewish community on campus and to realize some of the many similarities between my faith and the Jewish tradition. The community provided me with a warm welcome, and I was happy to sing praises to God in their company.
-Anonymous Catholic Student
Saturday Community Service
Participating in community service was a nice way to spend a Saturday afternoon, and I would encourage other students to seek out community service on campus, in the District and beyond. The fact that people of many faiths came together to do community service made the event more meaningful and was symbolic of the great things that can be accomplished when the diverse members of the human family unite behind a common goal.
It was a pleasure to work with the Orthodox Christian Fellowship and other members of the Georgetown community to provide simple necessities for Syrian refugees. There was a great turnout, and many hands made very quick work.
-Jack Segelstein, COL ’18