After devoting most of my life to Interfaith work, I’m usually pleased to see more people of faith working together or at least doing something without fighting. I’m even more pleased to see an intentional inclusion of seculars.
That said, it looks like the University of Nevada-Reno is trying some interesting things.
The seventh annual ceremony, known as Dikshant Utsav, was held at the University Sunday, April 27, and included a keynote address by a distinguished Hindu monk from California and blessing prayers by various denominations of Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, Baha’i and Native American religious leaders.
Each graduate received a traditional mark on the forehead. My feeling is that if someone knows what they’re doing this isn’t so bad (but what if it was a cross in ashes during Lent?).
Well, then U of N is building a new center where an “Interfaith Space” will open to students.
[Officials say the center] would be open to all campus student groups belonging to various religions/denominations and non-believers for reflection and meditation.
That seems reasonable and welcome.
What I find questionable is how will this center, and the “spiritual” dimension at a public university, really be handled? Serious questions should be raised when Rajan Zed, President of the Universal Society of Hinduism, commends the University for accepting :
the longstanding need of students of interfaith space for reflection, meditation, etc., and thus recognizing the intersection of spirituality and education. It is a step in the right direction, Zed adds.
The Hindu leader believes that,
with the presence of Interfaith Space, UNR students will have a spiritually meaningful life in addition to material success after they graduate from here. Interfaith Space will be another feather in UNR’s cap in making it a world class educational institution, Zed points out.
I would be raising a huge objection if this was a Christian leader advocating more spirituality in public education, but it is at least refreshing to hear this from a non-Christian. Yet, I still think the university should proceed with caution and with some strong academic voices watching this closely.
And maybe it’s best for these “spaces” to be OFF campus?
The very first thing I always do, and did in this case, is check the background of these organizations, what their mission, their true intent is. On their facebook page the Universal Society of Hinduism says,
Universal Society of Hinduism seeks to Motivate, educate and empower people through Hinduism to make positive social, personal and environmental changes.
It’s not a good sign that their main Hindu org link is broken. . .
I would want to know, especially before allowing them all over the campus of a public university, who is behind this and what is their goal. I’m guessing, with a little searching, these people are doing a good thing, while aiming at exposing more students to Hindu beliefs and philosophy. I don’t have a big problem with this, IF. . . IF, this is explicit and out in the open.
I would be surprised if some conservative Christians are not a little uncomfortable with this because it’s exactly what THEY do in their incessant attempts to get their “message” (exclusive gospel) into public schools.
Overall, from what I can see right now, I think this innovative program at U of N is commendable and a very interesting experiment in inclusive diversity. We’ll wait to see how the Wall of Separation between Religion and State is honored in this university.