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SWANS: Beyond Atheism, Agnosticism and religion to Spiritual intersectionality

The first week in February was the United Nation's Interfaith Harmony Week. While Smith will be commemorating this week later on in the semester, this is a good time to begin to talk about the what and why of "Interfaith Harmony." Three Smith students, board members of the Smith Spirituality In Action Group have just returned from Atlanta where they attended the leadership institute of the Interfaith Youth Corps. The IFYC's mission is to build religious pluralism, which they define as a respect for peoples' religious and non-religious identities which elicits mutually inspiring relationships and common action for the common good.


Eboo Patel, the organization's founder says:

We live at a time when people of different faith backgrounds are interacting with greater frequency than ever before. We hear the stories of people who seek to make faith a barrier of division or a bomb of destruction all too often. Instead, we view religious and philosophical traditions as bridges of cooperation. We believe that American college students, supported by their campuses, can be the interfaith leaders needed to make religion a bridge and not a barrier.

Patel talks about his own journey in college and how eye opening it was for him when after considering his ethnic, cultural and social location, as well as his gender identity and sexual orientation, he was made aware of the hidden importance of religious identity. He notes a time when his father said to him: "Are you reading the papers? You talk about race, class, and gender diversity, but you don't talk about the kind that's blowing the world up, religious diversity."

This point speaks to the urgency of bringing the subject of religion out of the shadows of taboo, in order to reach towards deeper understanding and in light of global ills such as climate change, the necessity of working toward the common good across intra and inter-religious lives...

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