The BYU Interfaith Student Association held an Interfaith Lunch to facilitate a dialogue about religious backgrounds between students who are not members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Sydney Ballif, co-president of the Interfaith Student Association, started the discussion on Thursday by sharing tips on how to create a safe space. Tips included speaking from your own perspective, assuming good intentions, respecting confidentiality, avoiding generalizations and seeking first to understand, not to be understood.
“It keeps this a safe space. If we follow these guidelines, I am sure we can have a great discussion,” Ballif said.
Hind Alsboul, a BYU senior, is from Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Alsboul is a practicing Muslim. She said she chose to attend BYU because of its communication disorders program and heard about the Interfaith Student Association through the campus chaplain, James Slaughter.
“He said maybe you can meet people of different faiths and feel like you fit in more, because you don’t really see that in your everyday life here at BYU,” Alsboul said.
Alsboul said she saw more diversity at the Interfaith Lunch than she had in the past two years of being a member of the Interfaith Student Association. There were Catholics, Muslims, Buddhists, Orthodox Christians and people of other faiths in her discussion group. Alsboul hopes future events will bring even more diversity.
“I think that’s really important, especially at a place like BYU where we don’t meet people of different backgrounds,” Alsboul said. “People have misconceptions, so it’s very important for me and others to learn and hear different perspectives.”
BYU junior Rebekah Rawling is a practicing member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Her husband introduced her to the Interfaith Student Association and she said she was really excited to learn from students of other faiths.
“I’m really happy they created this event to bring people together to openly discuss and learn from other people and their experiences and what I can do to be inclusive and understanding,” Rawling said.
Rawling said in her group they discussed not assuming everyone has the same shared vocabulary. She said one way we help people feel understood and be included is to not assume people know Church-related topics such as who Joseph Smith is, and to not assume someone’s religion.
BYU junior Leah Marett is a practicing Christian. Marett said she feels like at BYU it’s easy to only get the Church perspective on religion and it was nice to hear about other religions at the Interfaith Lunch. Her group discussed the importance of asking people questions about their religion.
“A lot of people when they hear you’re not LDS, their first thing is have you met with the missionaries? Have you read the Book of Mormon?” Marett said. “While I love the missionaries, sometimes I think it’s also good for them to ask questions about us.”
Marett said questions can be as simple as what they believe. She said many people assume what she believes, but their information sometimes comes from the wrong sources. However, Marett said most people of other faiths are happy to answer questions and talk about their beliefs.