The interfaith religious movement is relatively new, seeking to bring people of many faiths to discuss shared principles and how they can advance social welfare.
Thanks to senior Tamara Slater, who founded Students for Interfaith Action last year, UR students can delve into the interfaith movement. Slater, a senior religion and political science major, has big plans for the club.

What is SIA’s vision for the River Campus?
For students to feel comfortable talking about what they believe in. Hopefully, through those conversations, students of the River Campus start thinking in a very conscious way about how people have very different beliefs and that they can really agree on some fundamental things, like social action and social justice.

Where do you think the student body needs the most progress in religious diversity?
From talking to student leaders in the faith community, there really isn’t tension among religious groups. People feel pretty comfortable with each other and respect each other.
The problem is that [religious students] are uncomfortable talking about religion to students that don’t consider themselves part of a religion.
Religion can be an incredibly powerful force for good. That’s something that I hope students think about more and open their minds and consider that element of religion.

What activities do you guys do off campus?
We co-sponsored the MLK day of service with the Black Students’ Union. We also have The Interfaith Understanding Conference (April 11-13) at Nazareth College. We’re working on building a network of local Rochester area colleges and the students there who are involved in interfaith.

If there were no financial restraints, who would you bring in as a guest speaker?
Greg Mortenson would be great to bring in. He is a really fantastic example of somebody who believes in educating people about religion within a pluralistic and positive context. He is someone who is not Muslim but cares very deeply about Muslim youth in predominantly Muslim parts of the world.

Who has in you opinion affected the interfaith movement the most?
Eboo Patel. He is a young Muslim man from Chicago and he articulated the connection between religion and spirituality. I agree with him and I think when you connect religion with social action they both add to each other.

Where do you see SIA in 2020?
I hope that it’s a group that other groups on the [River] Campus will think of when they are thinking about programming that’s going to bring together different types of people, programs that involve social justice, as well as religion and philosophy.

Willis is a member of the class of 2011.

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