Interfaith Prayer Service Promotes Message of Peace
King’s College prides itself on its efforts to bring together communities of varying faiths. On every campus tour, the admissions ambassadors make it a point to declare to the visiting families that although the college is a Catholic institution, a prospective student does not need to be of that faith in order to attend the college.
The ambassadors then let the students know, should they be part of another faith, that the college will make efforts to procure transportation to the appropriate house of worship, regardless of the faith.
For some students, that makes all the difference, and this message speaks volumes about the foundations of friendship that King’s has with its own students. That message is spread through various means on campus.
On Sept. 9, Campus Ministry held an interfaith celebration within the campus chapel during the activities fair. The rain had forced the celebration – which has been going on for four years – inside. The celebrations have occurred around the time of the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in New York City.
Father Thomas Looney, the Director of Campus Ministry, shared that “King’s lost three members of our community three alumni – James Walsh, Leonard Snyder, and Ryan Fitzgerald – as well as a member of the church, Holy Cross priest Father Francis Grogan” in the 9/11 attacks.
Fr. Looney spoke of the peace that was the end goal of these types of celebrations and the quiet moment the event was meant to promote. Fr. Looney said that “peace is the primary focus,” for the readings during the celebration and that each piece from the various faiths would speak to that message and hopefully, “give students that moment of pause,” in order for us to reflect on our calling to be “peacemakers.”
Fr. Looney also expressed concerns regarding the “bubble” we sometimes live in that keeps us away from the violence in the world, when there are great amounts of violence occurring around the globe.
Through this interfaith practice, Fr. Looney hopes “to raise our consciousness that these realities are out there,” so we may, as a community, come to understand, “when any human being is the object of violence, every human being is an object of violence,” and through this understanding we might come to find our “capacity to do something about,” the violence in the world.
The celebrators stood in the doorway, shaking hands, making light conversation and were amiable.
Dr. Fevzi Akinci, Director of the Master of Science Program for Healthcare Management, attended the event and spoke about the importance of interfaith events. He spoke of the wonderful opportunity the interfaith service provided the King’s community. Akinci spoke about how the event served as a reminder to tell the community the aspiration of all people to attain a “peaceful environment.”
Bill Bolan, Director of the Shoval Center for Community Engagement and Dr. Janice Thompson, Associate Professor of Theology, who also attended, directly spoke about the importance of interfaith events.
Bolan finds the importance of such celebrations in their ability to educate the student body and staff about the diverse population at King’s.
“There is a lack of knowledge about what other faiths, traditions, and cultures are all about,” Bolan said. He argued that the interfaith movement serves to bring about the knowledge to the students and faculty at King’s that “all faiths and traditions have in common… a desire for peace.”
Thompson finds it’s important to share that all religions can work and pray together. She hopes interfaith events can dispel the “perspective that religions just fight,” which, she finds, is incorrect.
After the celebration, the speakers conversed about the efforts in the community to bring about common understanding.
Rabbi Larry Kaplan, Temple Israel, spoke highly of the efforts King’s College has made to bring over 100 Saudi Arabian students from overseas in order for them to study and be a part of the community.
He declared this type of learning to be the “quintessence of multiculturalism,” and was excited about the success of the program.
Dr. Ibrahim Almeky, Islamic Center of North Eastern PA, was very happy to be a part of the experience, stating that the event “was excellent…it sends a very positive message” to the students and faculty.
He found the message was meant to “unite” the community and if we were unable to come together, people could use the lack of unity “as an avenue to do damage.”