“May the Great Spirit bless all who enter there, may your moccasins make happy tracks in many snows, and may the rainbow always touch your shoulder.”
Timothy Kane, Associate Director for Inclusion Initiatives said a blessing over the guests at the close of the Interfaith Dinner last Tuesday evening. The annual event was planned in conjunction with student leaders from various faith organizations in partnership with University Events in the Division of External Relations. For the thirteenth year, the Interfaith Dinner brought together students, faculty and friends of the university in a celebration of diversity and spirituality. The first dinner was held in the wake of 9/11, when student leaders of religious organizations came together to support each other in a poignant display of interfaith respect and friendship.
This year’s theme, “Cultivating Community…Harvesting Hope,” celebrated Native American Traditions in observation of November’s Native American Heritage Month. Leaders of several student organizations spoke about how spirituality has impacted their lives. Brian Barlow, a junior and president of GW’s Native American Student Association spoke on behalf of the association, and delivered the keynote address. Afterwards, he shared his belief that the brought together a variety of faiths, many which he had never gotten to experience.
“I’m from Oklahoma, so we don’t always see the most diversity in faiths. So it was really beautiful for me in particular to see people of secular beliefs, and people of different faiths come together,” said Barlow.
In addition to a sumptuous vegetarian dinner and the variety of student speakers, The Voice Gospel Choir also performed. Guests were given the opportunity to create a message of coexistence through a craft project, and everyone was invited to participate in a continued dialogue through social media, using the hashtag #gwinterfaith.
At the end of the evening, there was one resounding message, captured eloquently by Barlow, “Faith is a personal decision, it’s something that’s in someone’s heart, it’s something that is between an individual and their respective beliefs. That’s something beautiful that we have here in the United States, and we should respect each other’s personal beliefs.”