Two Christians, a Muslim and an atheist walk into a conference.
No, this isn’t a set-up to the punchline of a joke—it’s a unique opportunity through Gannon University’s Mission and Ministry Office that demonstrates the campus’s ability to cherish and cooperate around difference.
Every year, the Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) hosts a conference called the Interfaith Leadership Institute (ILI). The ILI is designed to teach college students how to interpret spirituality on their campuses and to design a plan to increase interfaith activities.
Gannon’s commitment to interfaith cooperation and dialogue is rooted in Gannon’s mission and Catholic identity, and the university’s partnership with IFYC has been multifaceted.
The 2016 ILI took place in Chicago, and the Gannon students who attended the conference spent the weekend with other students from all around the U.S.
Student groups ranged in experience — some campuses represented have longstanding interfaith groups on campus, and some, like Gannon, are newer to the game.
Maddie Zurinsky, a senior history major at Gannon, found her experience at ILI to be most valuable.
“It was a place where I felt challenged and accepted, an odd combination to be feeling at the same time, but a feeling that I will always cherish and keep with me as I continue my journey through life,” she said.
Zurinsky tried to describe the purpose of ILI.
“We had to acknowledge our own faith and beliefs in order to enter into a more fruitful dialogue with others,” she said.
“Everyone was so willing to get to know you, understand you and your perspective on the world we all share.”
One of the speakers at ILI was Eboo Patel, an interfaith leader who presented at Gannon during the academic year leading up to the conference.
The students had the chance to get Patel’s books signed and were humbled when Patel remembered the students who organized his visit to campus.
Sending students to ILI for interfaith training is just one of many initiatives through Mission and Ministry that encourage interfaith relationships.
Campus Ministry and the Center for Social Concerns host events year-round that welcome students of all faith backgrounds.
For more information on Campus Ministry, call 814-871-7435.
LEIGH TISCHLER ‘17