Later this month, more than 100 people from twelve different Utah universities will come together to learn how to build interfaith bridges. The first ever Mountain West Interfaith Lab will be hosted by Utah State University.
Dr. Bonnie Glass-Coffin, professor of anthropology and affiliate professor of religion, is part of the team that planned the event. She also founded and co-directs the Utah State Interfaith Initiative.
“It started because of an identified need on our campus. Where students, and faculty, and administrators and staff, as part of a research project that we did a couple of years ago, all identified that religious and spiritual aspects of their identities — or lack of religious or spiritual identity, but that piece of who they are — is really fundamental and important,” Glass-Coffin said. “And people want to be able to share that as part of who they are. It’s an important part of being able to connect with others, and yet, on our campus, nobody felt safe doing so.”
She said that especially in Utah, interfaith work is an important way of teaching people to build spaces where we can share those aspects of our identities.
“Our religious persuasions, for many folks, are the foundation for a lot of other aspects of the way we interact with each other,” she said. “And wouldn’t it be great to be able to bring all of that to the table as we are collectively coming together to solve problems?”
Sponsored by the Interfaith Youth Corps, the event is the first of its kind. The Interfaith Youth Corps normally sponsors workshops in more populated areas, but recently called for proposals from more rural communities, and ultimately accepted the proposal by Dr. Glass-Coffin and her colleagues.