Learning For Your Spirit Week, a series of events designed to introduce members of the Hamilton community to new spiritual practices or unfamiliar religious traditions, took place Jan. 26 to Feb. 1. It was organized by the student-led All Beliefs Union and College Chaplain Jeffrey McArn.

The week highlighted a variety of religious and spiritual practices, like meditation with the abbot of the Zen Center of Syracuse, an Oneida Indian social dinner dance, and a discussion of Quakerism. The purpose of the week, McArn said, is “to provide interfaith experiences, religious traditions, or spiritual practices that people might not be familiar with, and to signal that interfaith community is important.”

One of the events, titled Christianity and Social Change, brought Pastor Mike Ballman of the Utica Cornerstone Community Church to discuss his work. The church serves as a center of social change, and provides hot breakfasts, youth programs, and a number of other vital services within the community. Ballman also founded the Oneida Square Project, a non-profit born out of the church. It is focused on bettering the community through art projects, community gardens, and other such initiatives. His social work is informed by his Christianity, as the message of “love thy neighbor” is one of his guiding principles.

Another event was a discussion about Being Muslim in Trump’s America. The discussion started with a presentation by Assistant Professor of Anthropology Mariam Durrani on the demographics of Islam, the problem with creating religious and moral binaries, and the impact of islamophobia on American society today.

Specifically, she emphasized the dangerous “Good versus Bad Muslim” dichotomy that makes it difficult for Muslim Americans to live openly and freely in our society. Following her presentation, the audience split into large groups to discuss reactions to the presentation. The event ended in one large group, to discuss thoughts about islamophobia in American society and how to move forward.

Overall, the week provided a variety of experiences that are unique and difficult to get outside of a campus.  “The hope,” said McArn, “is to get people interested in spirituality and the interfaith community.” As McArn pointed out, the benefit of campus life is that you can have events like this, that expose students to world views and experiences that are difficult to access outside of a college community.

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