How can interfaith education help the new generation of students?

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Interfaith schooling and engagement might help bridge gaps between entirely different teams at a time the place the nation is split like by no means earlier than.

Seventeen college students. Two religiously divided universities. A quest to bridge gaps.

That was the place to begin a revolutionary program, the results of which were just published in the Journal of College and Character. The colleges have been Oberlin College, a bastion of liberal pondering, and Spring Arbor University, a predominantly conservative, Christ-centered establishment.

College students from these universities participated in a novel, multi-week program supported by my group, the Interfaith Youth Core. Led by Bridging the Hole founder Simon Greer, contributors spent several days at their faculties studying sensible methods to search out the widespread floor, after which spent eight days dwelling collectively and fascinating in actions to discover one another’s values, political opinions, faiths, and extra. Additionally, they accomplished a collaborative mission on the prison justice system.

The outcomes have been exceptional. College students reported that this system helped solidify their perception of the significance of participating with folks with totally different viewpoints. Most college students indicated they might very seemingly use the abilities realized within the course to navigate totally different views from others of their lives — and to have extra respect for individuals who come from vastly totally different backgrounds. 

There’s a vital lesson to be realized from this expertise: Interfaith schooling and engagement might help bridge gaps between totally different teams at a time the place the nation is split like by no means earlier than.

Sadly, our schools and universities typically don’t present this urgently wanted sort of schooling. 

Non-secular variety is rising

The necessity couldn’t be clearer. Our nation is rising an increasing number of religiously numerous. Because the share of individuals figuring out as Christian declines, the proportion of individuals figuring out as Buddhists, Jews, and Muslims is rising, according to a 2019 Pew analysis. 

The variety of religiously unaffiliated folks — which incorporates individuals who establish as an atheist, agnostic, secular, or non-secular — is also climbing considerably. 

Sadly, with this rising variety, tensions between teams are excessive. Greater than 4 in 5 Individuals imagine Muslims expertise discrimination, according to a 2019 Pew study. In the meantime, practically two-thirds assume Jews face discrimination — a 20 level soar from three years prior — and half of the Individuals assume evangelical Christians do. 

Disturbingly, these biases can manifest in violence. Practically one in 5 hate crimes are grounded in religious bias, according to the FBI. Los Angeles County lately reported an 11% surge in religious-based hate crimes. 

It’s essential that we work as a rustic to bridge gaps between non-secular teams, and schools and universities are uniquely positioned to assist. In spite of everything, the school gives many younger folks with their first — and doubtlessly solely — likelihood to have significant interactions with folks of various non-secular, racial and socioeconomic backgrounds and develop a greater understanding of others’ beliefs and worldviews.

By equipping college students with the abilities to bridge divides, graduates can enter the actual world ready to interact productively with others.

Many universities merely aren’t capitalizing totally on this chance. That’s discovering a lately accomplished examine — the Interfaith Diversity Experiences and Attitudes Longitudinal Survey, which surveyed hundreds of scholars at greater than 100 universities throughout their four years at school.

Non-secular variations aren’t addressed

Researchers discovered that college students spend a big period of time studying about folks of various ethnicities, races, political affiliations, nationalities, and sexual orientations, however markedly much less time studying about folks of various religions. For instance, 74% of scholars have devoted time to studying about folks of a special race or ethnicity, and most college students hung out studying about folks with totally different political opinions and sexual orientations. 

In the meantime, simply 40% of scholars devoted time to studying about Jews and evangelical Christians, 27% hung out studying about Hindus, and solely 22% hung out studying about Latter-day Saints (Mormons). 

Furthermore, solely 65% of scholars reported attempting to construct relationships with individuals who maintain non-secular or non-religious beliefs that they disagree with. 

Greater than 60% of scholars really feel that folks on their campuses work together primarily with their very own non-secular or worldview communities. And one-third of faculty seniors didn’t really feel assured of their capability to barter difficult conversations with individuals who maintain totally different views.

Thankfully, because the Oberlin-Spring Arbor program proves, there are methods that faculties can flip this around. For one, they’ll make interfaith experiences obligatory.

College students who take part in not less than one curricular expertise centered on non-secular variety are way more prone to develop the expertise to handle interfaith relationships. Establishments also can present extra alternatives for the casual interplay between religiously numerous college students. Creating campus areas for college kids to practise their views freely can go a great distance as properly.

The society must make progress in bridging interfaith gaps. Increased schooling might help.