Updated: Feb. 7, 2019 at 1:27 p.m.
The GW Interfaith Council and Student Association are hosting the first weeklong celebration of religious student organizations.
Interfaith Week, a series of 14 religious and social events hosted by 10 different faith-based organizations, will take place from Friday to Saturday, Feb. 9. Student leaders said the events, which include a Christian Bible studies session and an introduction to Muslim prayer, will help the groups connect with other faith-based student organizations and educate students about different religious traditions.
“We do think that there is a lack of events and programming that highlight incredible religious diversity that we have here at GW,” Victoria Lewis, the president of the GW Interfaith Council and the SA’s director of interfaith, said. “We really wanted to create a week that was solely focused on that.”
Each of the 10 religious organizations – including the Hindu Students Association, the Muslim Students’ Association, GW Hillel and InterVarsity Christian Fellowship – participating in the week planned at least one event, Lewis said.
The event series will kick off Friday in Kogan Plaza where students can write a wish or prayer on a piece of paper and attach it to a “wishing tree.” The first day will end with a Shabbat dinner, the beginning of a Jewish holy day of rest lasting from Friday at sundown to Saturday at sundown, hosted by Jewish Voice for Peace at GW in the Multicultural Student Services Center.
GW Hillel will provide ice cream for breakfast in its townhouse Saturday, followed by a documentary screening hosted by the Interfaith Council in Funger Hall later that evening. Faith-based groups will also host a Super Bowl watch party Sunday and dinner and mass in the GW Catholics’ Newman Center Tuesday. Later in the week, the groups will host “speed-faithing” – a spinoff of speed-dating where students will have one-on-one meetings about their faiths – in the MSSC Wednesday and a meditation session hosted by the Hindu Students Association Thursday.
The week will wrap up on Saturday, Feb. 9 with Kirtan and Langar – Sanskrit words for telling stories and sharing meals – hosted by the Sikh Student Association in the District House basement.
Lewis said she planned the week hoping to highlight religious diversity, educate students about different religious traditions and encourage faith-based student organizations to collaborate. She sent emails to all religious student organizations asking them to participate and host events during the week, Lewis said.
Jacob Zionts, an organizing committee member for Jewish Voice for Peace at GW, said Interfaith Week will expose students to different faiths and help them learn about other religions. Zionts said he often gets “wrapped up” in Jewish politics on campus and wants to explore other religious communities.
“For me, the importance is learning about the diversity of religious and spiritual practice at GW,” he said.
Isha Rauf, the co-president of the Muslim Students’ Association, said the MSA decided to participate in Interfaith Week to encourage non-Muslim students to learn more about the faith. The MSA will host a guided introduction to Jummah, a congregational Muslim prayer, in Miriam’s Kitchen on Feb. 8 at noon.
“We wanted to make sure that people knew they could be involved with the MSA even if they weren’t Muslims,” she said. “We also wanted to openly welcome anyone who didn’t feel as confident attending our events before.”
Chloe Chang, the president of the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, said the open mic night planned for Feb. 8 will allow students of different religious backgrounds to educate one another about their religious experiences. Students are encouraged to discuss traditions and share personal stories about their faith at the event, she said.
“I really want to go to that one because I don’t really get to interact with the other faith traditions unless I’m really intentional about it and reach out to people,” Chang said.
The InterVarsity Christian Fellowship is also hosting its weekly gathering, called the Well, on Thursday night, where students can discuss how their relationship with God affects their everyday lives.
Mohmeet Choudhary, the president of the Sikh Student Association, said Interfaith Week can help to dispel negative stereotypes about Sikh people, like associations with terrorism and religious fanaticism.
The Sikh Student Association will partner with George Mason University’s chapter next Saturday to host Kirtan and Langar night, a Sikh tradition including a communal dinner and religious hymns.
“I think Interfaith Week is very important to celebrate those differences as well as celebrate those similarities between all of our faiths,” he said.
This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported the name of the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship on one reference. It has been corrected. We regret this error.