In a landscape of growing diversity, it becomes essential to understand those around us who come from different walks of life. The question that remains is: How do we engage these populations in dialogue and collaboration? Thankfully, organizations such as the Interfaith Youth Core and Religions for Peace have provided a number of different event and project ideas that can be done between religious congregations, college students, and other members of the community. Take a look at a few events below:
Fast-a-thon: First created by a Muslim Student Association in Knoxville and then adopted by the National Muslim Student Association, Fast-a-Thons are events where participants pledge to fast for a day and then donate the money they would have spent on food to a social action issue. Then, at the end of the day of fasting, everyone comes together to break the fast and reflect on their experiences as a community.
What purpose does an event like this serve?
- Fasting is an important and common practice in a number of the world’s religions. Fast-a-Thons create a conversation space that allow people to discuss shared values and practices which can develop a greater understanding of religious diversity.
- The breaking of the fast gives people a common experience to bond around and dialogue about. This is great for community building.
- Raising money for a common cause gives a simple but powerful example of what can happen if we come together from our various religious and philosophical backgrounds to work towards the common good.
Take a look at this detailed toolkit on how to host a Fast-a-thon, thanks to the Interfaith Youth Core: https://www.ifyc.org/sites/default/files/u4/Fast-a-Thon.pdf
A Seat at the Table: These are small, informal gatherings of people who can get to know about one another and their faiths. If they are well planned out and facilitate, these conversations can prove to be transformational in the ways of dismantling prejudices and stereotypes. This conversation should be hosted in a home or a location that allows for people to come together and to have a space to form topics of discussion. It is recommended that the conversation be kept with up to 15 people so that the space does not exclude or minimize the perspectives or opinions of an individual involved. Check out this guide from Our Muslim Neighbor and Religions for Peace USA:
Speedfaithing: Another great event that builds on interfaith literacy and understanding is through an event called Speedfaithing! With a variety of speakers that can host several sessions that explain the main principles and practices of their faith, individuals can share a space to learn about a number of traditions and their core values within a single event. If we learn from someone sharing the personal experiences about their religion or philosophy, we are able to build positive relationships with diverse groups of people while learning. I smell a win-win. These times can vary per your needs, but a speedfaithing session typically lasts 20 minutes. The presenter will share about their values—sacred or secular—for about 10 minutes and then take questions from the audience for another 10 minutes.
Here are some of our own ideas of ways you can do to inform, engage, and bring together students and members of the community:
Start a conversation: Organize a lecture, discussion, or town hall meeting to foster conversation around a current issue. Students, faculty, staff, and experts in your community have a lot to contribute to a dialogue and can add some needed perspective.
Screen a film: Movies and documentaries help to put issues and dialogues into context. Borrow a film from AMP Global Youth’s film library and sponsor a screening as part of a class or event.
Share a meal: If there’s one things that brings together people from different backgrounds, it’s the ability to share food and drink! This provides a common ground for learning and an immersive opportunity to understand different cultures and customs around the table… and in your stomach.
Help others: Organize a day of service to help others in your community in their time of need, highlighting our shared values, concerns, and opportunities to bring change.
Organize a conference: Bring your peers together to talk about key issues through panels and workshops over the course of a day or a weekend. Your university will probably love (and sponsor) the idea.
Make a scene: Raise awareness around an issue you care about in a loud and fun way. Organize a flash mob. Get everyone to sing a song in class. Do something engaging and visible, and people will notice.
Get fancy: Organize a fundraising dinner or mocktail party to bring people together to discuss an important issue. People like to dress up and have fun, and it will be easy to grab their attention for 10 or 15 minutes to talk about why everyone has come together. This is a great way to build support for other actions down the road.
Get artsy: Invite an artist or musician to share his/her works on campus. The arts are a powerful way to dissect issues you care about.
Organize an advocacy day: Want more funding for foreign assistance? Want your local government to start a recycling program in your community? Get a bunch of people together to go talk to the people that have the power to give you what you want!
Other ideas: pajama party, training workshop, benefit concert, activity fair, sporting event, theater, poetry night, talent show…think about what would work on your campus to get people excited and ready to take action!
Sign up with the Hope Not Hate campaign today so we can help you work out all the details to host a successful, informative, and engaging event on your campus and in your community today!