During the week of October 22 to 26, Berea College students Ethan Hamblin and Musa Jitmoud, along with Berea Campus Life Director Holli Hudson, traveled to Washington, D.C. for the Interfaith Leadership Institute (ILI).The students attended multiple conferences focused on spreading interfaith dialogue and initiatives across college campuses.
While there, they learned many useful techniques and ideas. Hamblin stated, “Berea was actually, in my opinion, one step ahead of most of the schools attending. It was really great to communicate our ideas with them.”
The ILI was sponsored by the Interfaith Youth Core, an international non-profit organization that shares many connections with Berea College. Its founder, Eboo Patel, was a speaker at Berea for the Robbins Peace Lecture in March 2010. Patel has since developed a friendship with President Larry Shinn. According to Katie Basham, director of the Campus Christian Center, these interfaith initiatives aim to “equip young people to work together to create interfaith cooperation and to view religious diversity as a strength.”
Hamblin is a member of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) who experienced this notion firsthand during the ILI with junior Berea student and practicing Muslim, Musa Jitmoud. “It was a great experience,” says Hamblin, “The practice of praying five times a day was something I knew about Islam, but traveling with Musa, I had the opportunity to witness it first-hand. We would be in the middle of the airport and (Musa) would actually take the time to do his thing, lie down and pray.” He added, “It was motivation for myself, to say, ‘Hey, look at how devoted he is to his faith. Am I as devoted?’”
The Institute training was divided into three major objectives: speak out, mobilize and sustain. Berea College’s interfaith leaders, such as Basham, believe Berea is taking leadership in the first two categories and is working on sustaining those initiatives by passing them on to younger students. Berea’s interfaith group, Spiritual Seekers, of which both Hamblin and Jitmoud are members, is dedicated to serving others in ways that the major religions agree upon.
Visiting the nation’s capital was a “very empowering” experience says Hamblin, “It was great to know that people across the nation are talking about and doing the same things we’re doing here. It’s not just about Berea, it’s about changing the world.”