This spring break, I had the privilege of volunteering my time for a week with Interfaith Philadelphia as a part of my alternative break program. The week was full of different trips and experiencing different faiths and traditions. I was exposed to faiths I did not even know existed before the week, and others I knew little or next to nothing about. The week also included experiencing the trip with other students from a different college.
My faith tradition is Catholic, my Theology degree is from a Catholic university, and the foundation of that degree is a Christian-based understanding. Therefore, to be introduced to faiths that did not have Christ as a prominent figure was amazing! You may tell yourself that you will “get around to exploring other faiths”, and it just never happens because life tends to get in the way. So this week was a great way to unplug from my world, experience someone else’s, and see the world in an entirely different light. It also allowed me to gain and grow from the others members of my group and the other college too. For example, one very special moment I had was from one of the other students from Villanova at our trip to a mosque. He told me that he was praying for me about a very personal situation I shared the day before. He also encouraged me to continue to be open about my struggles.This moved me and truly touched my heart because we were complete strangers, and yet we were praying for each other. It was a beautiful example of how different faiths can not just get along, but really appreciate and understand each other. We are two different people from two different colleges and faith backgrounds, and I said something that was interesting to him, and he responded in such a beautiful way.
I am thankful for Interfaith Philadelphia for providing me with that encounter, and for the eye-opening experiences and opportunities of the week. In a world that often emphasizes the negative dialogue between religions, it was incredible to experience tons of positive religious dialogue. I thank Interfaith Philadelphia for fostering an inquisitive mind in myself concerning other faiths, and for giving me the tools needed to ask curious questions without accidentally being hurtful or insensitive. It's important that we look toward civil dialogue and friendship instead of division and exclusion. This week was a great chance to counter those harsh headlines and prove that interfaith dialogue can be (and should always be) filled with peace and positivity.