Interfaith Prayer event unites religious organizations

“The things that you think are your failures can actually be a platform for you to engage in major ministry and life transformation,” Dr. Ty-Ron Douglas said.

Students from various religious backgrounds gathered to celebrate their spiritual similarities and express their hopes for a successful school year at the evening of Sept. 16 at Tiger Plaza.

The Multicultural Center, the Association of Campus Religious Advisors, the Asian Christian Fellowship, the Catholic Student Association, Mizzou Hillel and the Muslim Student Organization all sponsored Interfaith Prayer.

The idea for this event began with the idea of bringing different faiths together.

Angelle Hall, director of Campus Ministry at St. Thomas More Parish and Newman Center, said she had been thinking about for a while about holding a community-wide faith event.

“I thought it would be a good idea if we honored the fact that there are a lot of different faiths on campus and that we can all come together and pray in our own way for a good start to the year,” Hall said.

Hall worked with Multicultural Center coordinator Stephanie Hernandez Rivera, Mizzou Hillel president Thalia Sass and Muslim Student Organization president Zakaria El-Tayash to plan and organize Interfaith Prayer.

The event began with each attendee writing a fear or concern he or she had for the school year with washable markers on a small sheet of paper.

Once everyone had done so, Sass introduced the event’s main speaker, Dr. Ty-Ron Douglas, professor of educational leadership and policy analysis.

Douglas led the group in a song of worship before introducing himself and his purpose.

“I’m excited about you all,” Douglas said. “This is actually a beautiful event. I’m just excited to be here with individuals who are not afraid to say, ‘You know what? I have a faith system.’”

Douglas went on to say he respects the differences between people’s faiths, backgrounds and experiences, no matter how diverse they are.

“That’s not a weakness to me,” Douglas said. “That’s a strength. That’s a beautiful thing.”

He invited the attendees to perform “me-search,” a play on research, reflecting on their life experiences and what led them to that moment. As a devout Christian, Douglas said he conducts “me-search” regularly.

“As leaders, as scholars, as academics, as students, you need to know that your faith has place here,” he said.

He stressed the importance of each individual, saying that everyone has overcome different things over the courses of their lives and that everything about a person’s history, both good and bad, can be used to create a positive present and future.

“Your journey matters,” he said. “Your story matters. I need you to recognize that there is value in what you have been through because sometimes we don’t see our stories as having value.”

To emphasize the importance of gathering strength from fear, Douglas recounted his personal experience in South Africa. Admitting his fear of heights gave him the strength and perseverance to successfully climb three mountains, he said.

“The things that you think are your failures can actually be a platform for you to engage in major ministry and life transformation,” he said.

As he finished his talk, the students put the slips of paper containing their fears into bowls of water. After, they lit candles and listened as representatives of the religious groups shared their hopes for the school year.

Claire Lott of the Asian Christian Fellowship was the first to speak.

“Our hope is to grow as a family in our faith together and to share our religion and culture with other students despite any differences we may have,” Lott said.

El-Tayash followed up with an offering of hope on behalf of his religious group.

“Our hope is that we can put an end to sexual harassment, rape and assault on campus,” El-Tayash said. “Although we are all from different backgrounds and beliefs, we all have the right to safety on our own campus.”

Representatives from the Catholic Student Association, the Lutheran Student Fellowship and Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship also expressed their hopes. Sass spoke for her faith group as well.

“The Jewish Student Organization hopes to work with each and every one of you to create an environment of mutual understanding, love and respect,” Sass said.

The expressions of hope brought the event to a close, but the atmosphere of solidarity and peace remained.

“It’s always good to come together and recognize that your faith has a place,” Douglas said. “I think it was a good experience.”

He was not alone in his confidence that the event was a productive one.

“We do have a lot of the same hopes and a lot of the same fears,” sophomore Shelbi Grothaus said. “I really like that we can all come together and express that. We’re all the same, really.”

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