Luther School Ministries Explores the Theme Interfaith Cooperation and Civil Rights – Luther School Chips

For the spring semester of 2021, Luther College ministries examined the topic of the links between interfaith cooperation and civil rights in their weekly Wednesday chapels. The series of lectures began with a guest lecture by Edward Curtis, Professor of Religious Studies at Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis, on interfaith collaboration and civil rights activism on February 24th. Since then there have been two more lectures at church services on the same topic, one by religion professor Todd Green and the other by religion professor Gereon Kopf (’08).

Kirsten Melaas-Swanson (’22) is the sacristan who, in addition to creating audio and video data for virtual chapel services, also facilitates chapel services. She explained that the theme of this series can help people of all faiths connect with one another.

“I firmly believe that we need to learn more about what connects us and focus on those connections,” said Melaas-Swanson. “This is one of the best ways we can fight for the rights of people affected by systematic oppression [the] disadvantaged in society. It is our responsibility as Christians to stand up for and on behalf of marginalized communities, regardless of race, gender, religion, creed, or any other background that may be different from our personal identity. “

As Interim Director of the Center for Ethics and Public Engagement (CEPE), Green was one of the people who helped facilitate collaboration between CEPE and the College Ministries for this series. He explained the importance of focusing on interfaith belief in this month’s chapel series, as it creates different perspectives and can influence our thinking. Green believes it was effective to start the series with Curtis’ talk, “How I Left the Interfaith Movement and Found Interfaith Solidarity”.

“[This] Chapel series …[pushes us] to think from different perspectives about how we can go beyond religious boundaries and religious boundaries to find a common cause in promoting civil rights, ”said Green. “To recognize that not only people of a religious tradition believe in civil rights or need them. Nor are people of one religion who are the recipients. “

Pastor Mike Foss, the interim director of college ministries and campus pastor at Luther, reiterated Green’s claim that civil rights are something that should be available to people of all religions, although often they are not.

“When you work together on an interfaith basis, you first learn not only what people believe in, but also what values ​​they represent,” said Foss. “That shakes the caricature we have of others who don’t share our religion or belief. Once this cartoon is broken, we can stand side by side and we find that people have often been denied civil rights because their religion is not up to the norm. “
Green also explained why he thought this topic was particularly important to Luther College.

“I think it’s great when a college like Luther, a college of the Church that has traditionally been dominated by a Christian mission with Christian students, staff, and faculties, thinks a little more deeply about how people of different religions come together for a common cause like this fight. “

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