More than 300 events were held during the 2012 Year of Interfaith Understanding, which invited the West Michigan community to move beyond religious stereotypes and misunderstandings and toward true understanding of other faiths, learning to live in peace with respect for their differences. Organizers hope their efforts created a solid foundation for continued growth of interfaith understanding in the years ahead.
The YIU endeavor was developed through a unique partnership led by Grand Valley’s Kaufman Interfaith Institute, the Grand Rapids Press, WGVU Public Media, Grand Rapids mayor’s office and three organizing councils representing campuses, congregations and community organizations.
“There has been tremendous support and community events included everything from performances by theater and music groups, to museum exhibitions and discussions at civic and business organizations,” said Doug Kindschi, director of the Kaufman Interfaith Institute.
In conjunction with YIU, the Grand Rapids Community Foundation awarded $50,000 to provide mini-grants to congregations’ events that encouraged interaction with other faith traditions. Interfaith programs, tours of sacred spaces of worship and interfaith dialogues were conducted at Christian churches, Jewish temples, Islamic mosques as well as Hindu and other religious sites throughout West Michigan, in efforts to encourage interfaith understanding.
Eight West Michigan colleges, seminaries and universities also featured interfaith understanding events throughout the year. Many faculty members incorporated aspects of interfaith understanding into this year’s curricula, ranging from business ethics and philosophy to history and journalism. Large numbers of Grand Valley students, faculty and staff members also participated in interfaith dialogues that explored other faiths, discussed the role of religion in world politics and society, and talked about how to work together on social issues. The Office of Student Life coordinated service-learning opportunities for students via participation in the White House Interfaith & Community Service Campus Challenge.
One of the highlights of the year was Grand Valley’s Triennial Interfaith Dialogue in October, which featured three internationally respected experts in the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faith traditions.
“Though the year 2012 is coming to an end, the community, congregation and campus councils all plan to continue interfaith events in the future,” said Kindschi. Also a professor of mathematics and philosophy, Kindschi is taking a break from his teaching responsibilities at Grand Valley to accept a 7-month fellowship in the University of Cambridge Inter-Faith Programme. “Though I’ll be exploring interfaith in the European setting, the wonders of technology will allow me to also keep active in the Kaufman Interfaith Institute and ongoing interfaith events,” he said.
For more information about YIU participants and upcoming events, visit 2012gr.org, or call (616) 331-5702.