Multi-Faith Prayer Room on Campus
On November 22, the Multi-Faith Prayer Room had its grand opening on campus. It was held in the Lois Perkins Chapel garden and greek food was provided for everyone who attended. The room has been available for most of the fall semester, but furniture setbacks pushed the grand opening date to this late in the semester.
Faculty, staff, and students have access to the Multi-Faith Prayer Room. The space is able to be accommodating for spiritual needs on campus. It opens at eight in the morning and closes at midnight, with the rest of the chapel. On Friday afternoons, an imam from the Austin area leads Jummah in the room. There is talk about trying to bring a llama on campus for the purpose of the religious space.
According to the Southwestern website, the Multi-Faith Prayer Room is “designed for spiritual reflection and small group discussion.”
The Multi-Faith Prayer Room was a project spearheaded by junior, Dianna Starr. It was through her internship as a Texas Civil Ambassador through the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life. In an interview conducted through email, Starr discussed how the project came to be.
“I met with Terri Johnson, the Assistant Dean for Student Multicultural Affairs, and Julianne Snape, the Chaplain, to discuss the establishment of the space prior to the start of the fall semester,” said Starr. “After that meeting, the project snowballed from there and expanded into the establishment of the space that Southwestern University has today.”
The prayer room came from a limitation on religious accommodations on campus. The university acknowledges diversity on campus, however Starr found that, after speaking with some friends, not every students’ needs were met.
“Southwestern University is a wonderful campus, yet we still have a long way to go and that progress can only be made if there are not only voices to be heard, but a way for those voices to take action,” said Starr.
Some of the limitations that Starr mentions are dietary restrictions that are unaddressed in the commons, expansion of holiday education and the expansion of religious spaces on campus. With the growing number of students, this room will act as a link for further expansion in religious diversity.
“The Multi-Faith Prayer Room is by no means the solution. It is a stepping stone,” said Starr.
The Office of Student Spiritual and Religious Life will begin to work with some student organizations to help with the expansion. There is already work being done with the organization, Muslims and Allies. Recently, they held an event called “Intro To Islam” that had a guest speaker, Mohammed Abu Esba. This was a partnership with the Office of Student Spiritual and Religious Life, Mosaic and Padeia.
The project that The Office of Student Spiritual and Religious Life and Muslims and Allies will be working on next semester is the InterFaith Council, known as SUIFC. It will be a student-led organization where students can address concerns they have on campus about official religious limitations; like the ones stated earlier in this article. They will also work on expanding spaces for religious diversity.
The fall semester of 2020 will also be looking to expand the Multi-Faith Prayer Room by bringing in more physical items that will aid in prayer and worship. Starr also plans to host more events there by the time they expand on items in the room.
“We as a campus still have a long way to go… [This is] the start of invoking the necessary change not only at Southwestern University, but in Georgetown as a whole,” said Starr.