Davis & Elkins College is pleased to have been a part of the Peacemaking in Appalachia: Blueprints for Building Bridges to Interfaith Appreciation and Cooperation Conference held in February 2017 at the beautiful Lakeview Resort in Morgantown, W.Va. This conference was generously sponsored by the Interfaith Youth Core Regional Leadership Lab Initiative, in partnership with Westminster College, West Virginia Wesleyan College and the Harless Center for West Virginia University.
Throughout the two-day conference, attendees learned to reflect upon and practice sharing their own religious and spiritual values in a welcoming and inviting manner; articulate the societal value of interfaith cooperation and engagement; articulate basic religious values and/or beliefs of major religious and spiritual traditions found in Appalachia; and identify assets on campus for future opportunities for interfaith appreciation and collaboration at the campus level.
Appalachia can often be found lacking diversity, and our campuses both reflect and are influenced by that homogeneity. Our campuses also reflect the best hopes for promoting empathetic engagement with those of other traditions. Reflecting on our context is vital to reaching our outcomes, and we see our regional limitations vis-à-vis interreligious diversity as an important orientating consideration. Our hope is that a frank assessment of the challenges facing Appalachian college students through pre-meeting conversations will constructively identify areas for potentially explosive growth in interfaith understanding on our respective campuses.
In creating a space to nurture the values of interfaith appreciation and engagement, students heard the importance of interfaith work and were invited to think critically about their own faith and share that story with others. Saturday morning was designed as an experiential opportunity to learn about the faith traditions of neighbors found in Appalachia. Students traveled to the local synagogue for Shabbat services and time for reflection on local religious traditions afterwards. The afternoon was designed for students to consider how to begin nurturing environments on local campuses for interfaith engagement and cooperation through small group discussion and sharing.
For more information about Interfaith Youth Core, click here.