Friday, February 5, 2010

In the Wake of Westboro

Counter-Protest Draws Hundreds

In the Face of Hatred, Campus Comes Together

Letter to the Editor

A Provost's Pride

We Stand United

It's been a remarkable couple of weeks for F.A.I.T.H. So much positive energy has been generated by the Stanford community's overwhelming response last Friday to a few protesters from a fringe extremist group from the Westboro Baptist Church. I had not seen this kind of solidarity--with nearly 1000 members from all across Stanford--since the Bush protests in the year of my Admit Weekend. For many freshmen, some of whom have written on this blog, this was the most meaningful experience of their young Stanford career.

As I'm sure you know, we attached a letter to the invitation from Hillel to the entire Stanford community. We were specifically encouraged to do so by JSA President Joe Gettinger, who explained something very humbling to hear--that in many ways, F.A.I.T.H had laid the foundation for such an event to be possible. This letter, in turn, had a ripple effect on several faith communities on campus. The image of members of Campus Crusade for Christ with tears in their eyes at Blake Parkinson's spontaneous bagpipe rendering of "Amazing Grace" will remain salient in my memory.

I want to offer another example of the particular force of the interfaith narrative we were able to create. A Muslim girl told us after the event that when Daniel Pipes had come to campus some years ago, she felt she could only turn to MSAN and the ISSU for response; but now, she felt that her sense of community was much stronger, and that even students outside the group being attacked would actively empathize with her own sense of marginalization. And at a time when Muslim student groups are being systematically shut down in British universities, the narrative of mutual enrichment between diverse communities at Stanford is growing stronger every year.

I highlight this story to demonstrate how an initiative to strengthen interfaith relationships blossomed not only into a broader campus movement, but into a vision for the future. Provost Etchemendy had this to say about our efforts: "I am very grateful for the wonderful work you and Ansaf are doing to strengthen interfaith relations on campus. You are helping to build something very special in the community!" While we are thrilled to have been instrumental in creating such a favorable atmosphere, and to have rooted ourselves in several areas of the institution, now is the time for those who have thus far been ushers and Challah-makers and logo-designers to take the lead: to mobilize interfaith cooperation on malaria, to survey how religious identities are engaged on campus, to incorporate creative representations of religious diversity for FACES at next year's NSO.

Hence we welcome your presence at next week's FAITH meeting (Wed, Feb. 10th, 7:30 PM in the CIRCLE) with two more IFYC trainers, who will conduct a special intensive leadership session. The application for next year's Fellows Alliance (due March 15th) is now open! Besides looking for us at Dance Marathon this weekend, please keep in mind these other upcoming events:

Mon. Feb. 22nd, 7 PM, Annenberg Auditorium: Roger W. Heyns Lecture by Rev. Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners. (P.S: I will be introducing Rev. Wallis!)

Sat. March 6th, EPC, (Time TBA): Bloodsuckers Ball with Initiative Against Malaria. Dress as your favorite vampire, mosquito, or bednet, and raise funds for Malaria No More, all to be matched by the Tony Blair Faith Foundation!

We look forward to FAITH leadership, now and in future years, finding new ways to translate Stanford's commitment to diversity into the vitality of pluralism.

With Love,

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