On Thursday, members of the UR community gathered for the Religious Diversity Celebration to honor various religious groups present on campus. The tone and theme of the event was immediately established when eight students of different ethnicities and faiths stood at the altar of Interfaith Chapel’s Sanctuary Level and spoke different languages. Although the students were of different ethnicities, faiths and native languages, they were striving to communicate a single message to promote peace amongst all.

“When I first came to the University of Rochester’s campus, I looked to my right and saw the Rush Rhees Library, a symbol of the school’s dedication to academics,” UR President Joel Seligman said in his opening remarks about the significance of religious diversity on campus. “When I looked right across from the Rush Rhees Library, I saw the Interfaith Chapel, the embodiment of the school’s religious diversity.”

This is the 10th year that UR has held a ceremony to celebrate religious diversity. Originally, the event consisted of testimonies, including a Reflections segment. The Reflections segment allowed 10 students of different faiths to share not only their perceptions of their respective religions, but also the many stereotypes and prejudices they faced as devoted members of their faith.

Over the years, the event has slightly changed to particularly focus on diverse religious perceptions and forms of worship in the line of one common theme. The theme this year was peace.

Representatives from the Muslim Students’ Association, UR Christian Fellowship, Protestant Christian Community, Hillel, Pagan Students’ Community and Catholic Newman Community shared several forms of worship from their religious faiths.

President of PCC and junior Kristin Beck described the gathering of these campus clubs as a unique opportunity.

“This faith-sharing encourages religious understanding in our campus, which, in turn, promotes peace,” she said.

MSA member and senior Zainab Alwan shared the Islamic call for prayer, known as Adhan. Alwan immediately followed with a recitation from the Qur’an.

As the ceremony ensued, Hillel provided a visual demonstration of the meal consumed during the holiday of Passover, the Seder.

After this, URCF member and senior Kimberly Snyder presented a brief history of the Apostolic Church. Following this presentation, junior Jessica Chery played piano and recited “My Redeemer.”

The next presentation came from PSC member and sophomore Jason Powell, who shared a PowerPoint presentation of the different symbols and tools that are used in Pagan worship. Noting the negative connotations that were formed during the medieval times, Powell boldly represented his faith and explained the actual significance of the Pentacle for Pagans.

“Regardless of the faith or denomination, the message of peace can come in many forms,” Powell said.

After Powell’s presentation, PCC member and sophomore Colin Corbett read a story about a Ku Klux Klan march near Davidson College, in which Davidson’s students organized a town-wide party on the campus in protest of the march.

Several members of PCC then joined together to sing a hymnal called. “This is my Song.”

“The hymn’s words form a prayer for understanding between different countries and cultures,” Beck said.

The ceremony wrapped up with a scripture reading from Colossians 3:1-15 by a member of the Catholic Newman Community. The night appropriately ended with a light dinner and casual conversations between Jews, Protestants, Pagans, Muslims and Catholics. This visual image of the religious diversity on the UR campus was captured in one building, not just any building, but, as the words inscribed above the entrance door, “A House of Prayer for All People.”

Nathaniel is a member of the class of 2011.

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