Many faiths, One UND

Taste of Faith Luncheon at Christus Rex draws wide variety of believers and belief systems for fellowship

Interfaith Week

Members of the UND community take time to dish up lunch at the Taste of Faith event, held Friday, Feb. 3, at Christus Rex church on campus. The event capped the celebration of Interfaith Week at UND. Photo by Tyler Ingham.

All were welcome to dine together and learn more about each other.

About 100 people from the University of North Dakota campus community and beyond showed up on Friday, Feb. 3, with an appetite for food and engagement at this year’s Taste of Faith Luncheon at the Christus Rex Lutheran Campus Center.

The event capped off a weeklong celebration of diversity in faith, spirituality and togetherness on campus as part of Interfaith Week. All told, 13 religious and faith groups participated in Interfaith Week at UND.

Another Interfaith event earlier in the week featured a lecture by multicultural organizational expert The Rev. Jamie Washington, who urged a packed-house audience to engage in conversations about race, diversity and inclusion more honestly. His appearance was part of UND’s Eye of the Hawk Lecture Series.

Friday’s Christus Rex luncheon featured about 10 speakers, each representing their respective faiths and describing their beliefs and customs in three-minute presentations.

Cheyenne Defender

Cheyenne Defender, a UND nursing student from Dunseith, N.D., explains the Baha’i faith to participants of the Taste of Faith luncheon at Christus Rex Church. Photo by Tyler Inham.

Embracing neighbors

These presentations ranged widely, from followers of the Baha’i faith of modern-day Iran to the nature-based pagan religion of Wicca, from Islam to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Pastor Chad Brucklacher of Christus Rex said in past years the luncheon was designed so that people from different faiths and religions would be positioned at each table. Participants then were encouraged to go to the table of their choice to learn more about that particular belief system.

Feedback suggested, however, that people were not getting as much out of that setup, so Christus Rex opted for the current arrangement where everyone can listen at the same time.

Following the luncheon, a group joined Brucklacher at the Islamic Center of Grand Forks for an observance of Muslim prayer.

“You can tell by some of the work that we are doing here at Christus Rex that what matters to us as a church is the ability to embrace our neighbors and our neighbors’ faiths,” said Brucklacher, who served as one of the day’s speakers, representing the Evangelical Lutheran Churches of America.

Brucklacher said that his church follows God’s advice to “love your neighbor as yourself,” a welcome message to many who might feel rejected or scared as a result of national and international affairs.

“We take those commands very seriously,” he said, “and we think that loving our neighbor means we love all of our neighbors, not just some of our neighbors.”

Coexistence

Nabil Suleiman, a UND civil engineering professor and president of the Islamic Center of Grand Forks, used his brief opportunity to emphasize that his is a religion of peace and a way of life, not just something you are when you are in church, temple or mosque.

“Once you establish the peace with in yourself, you can spread it around you so the people around you feel it, too,” Suleiman said. “This is something you live with, sleep with and wake up with every day.”

Cheyenne Defender, a UND nursing student from Dunseith, N.D., explained that her faith, known as Baha’i, is rooted in the concept of “progressive revelation.” In other words, whether one is a follower of Zoroaster, Buddha, Mohammad or Jesus Christ, the founders of those religions all followed the same path to spiritual enlightenment.

“It’s believed they all were established by one creator and that we are all guided by that same creator’s voice, and the Baha’i faith is today’s message for that path and it teaches that there will continually be more messages in the future,” Defender said.

Andre Washington, a representative of the UND International Centre, didn’t focus on one region or faith when it was his turn to speak. Instead, he talked about many.

He said the UND International Centre tries to help American citizens, who might not be used to varying faiths or cultures in their communities, to increase their awareness of others.

“At the International Centre, we represent all faiths because we have students coming from all over the world, and we also send students all over the world,” Washington said. “It’s about coexistence and that’s what our office focuses on: coexisting.”