Interfaith reflection room gets ‘OK’ from ASA
With a 22-4 vote from the Augustana Student Association, a new Interfaith Reflection Room has taken its first steps towards implementation at Augustana University.
Open as a space to pray, meditate, reflect and worship, this space will provide non-Christian and nonreligious students a place to practice their faith in an easily accessible, safe environment.
“Interfaith dialogue, especially within a small community such as Augustana, can have a great impact and provide diversity and education for those individuals that don’t necessarily understand what Islam and other faiths are about,” freshman Manaal Ali, president of the Muslim Student Association, said.
While open to all on campus, the space will be particularly helpful to non-Christian students.
Kirtana Krishna Kumar, a student contributor to the Interfaith Reflection Room proposal, has to pray in the morning and evening 1-2 hours every day.
“Sometimes I can’t [pray] in the dorms because I have to make sure the people around me are not disturbed,” Kumar said.
According to Kumar, other students have also encountered these issues, having to pray in professor’s offices and corners of the commons building when there are only a few minutes between class periods.
Campus Pastor Ann Rosendale said Augustana has grown in religious diversity in recent years, seeing an increase in Muslim, Jewish and nonreligious students, necessitating the new room.
“On simply a human level, [creating an interfaith space] is the right thing to do,” Rosendale said. “When we are admitting students who are not Christian in their religious identity, we have a responsibility to accommodate them.”
As a collaborative project between the Augustana Student Association, Better Together, Campus Ministry, the Muslim Student Association, Campus Life, International Programs, and the Diversity and Inclusion Office, the Interfaith Reflection Room has considerable support from organizations across campus.
Still, ASA’s passing vote is not the final step toward implementation of the room. The President’s Council will vote in the near future and have the final say on whether the space will be created.
Junior Hannah Norem, chair member of the co-curricular committee of the Augustana Student Association and member of Campus Ministry, has been instrumental in bringing the proposal before the Augustana Student Association.
“Just to get the seal of approval from the student representatives is huge to say ‘we support you, we care, and we’re here for you,’” Norem said.
As cited in the proposal crafted by Ali and Kumar, the Interfaith Reflection Room will reside in what is now the Chicago Room in the Morrison Commons, and the space will be accessible 24/7.
The room will be available to all students and staff once the proposal is passed and the room refurbished, the timing of which is to be determined.
With a $1,500 grant from the Interfaith Youth Core procured by Rosendale and Corey Kopp, director of Campus Life, the initial expenditures of new paint, furniture, prayer rugs and holy books should be covered. However, the space is open to accepting donations of various faith-based items including Buddhist singing bowls, rosaries, etc.
Overseen by an Interfaith Advising Board, the space will be directed primarily by students.
“Ideally, what we’d like to see is this group of students that are representative of different groups on campus to meet and discuss everything that happens from current issues related to usage, direction, and ultimately provide a strong recommendation, if not just make that decision themselves,” Kopp said.
While primarily useful to those of non-Christian backgrounds, the Interfaith Reflection Room allows for education and reflection in an open environment.
“When we start looking at other perspectives, we start making better decisions and analyzing the situations we’re in,” Kumar said.