July 23, 2004

Inaugural Faith Week set for Oct. 4-8

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Student organizations at Southern Illinois University Carbondale are partnering with faith-based communities in the region this fall for a week of open discussion on faith.

"Faith Week at SIUC" is set for Oct. 4-8 with activities in various locations on campus. The purpose is to promote spiritual awareness in an academic setting, according to organizers. Events are open to the public.

Faith Week seeks to advance dialogue among different faith groups on campus and in Southern Illinois, with the hope of promoting diversity, while dispelling myths and producing an environment where individuals and groups can freely express faith without ridicule or persecution.

"My hope is that students can see in a very open forum how matters of faith play an everyday part in many people's lives, and they can begin to investigate those things for themselves," said Roger Lipe of Carbondale, one of the event's facilitators.

Up to 28 faith-based registered student organizations on campus will serve as contact points for community faith-based organizations. The community organizations will work with the registered student organization related to their faith to schedule on-campus events.

Some suggested activities include brown bag lunches in the SIUC Student Center with those registered organizations, panel discussions, music and art exhibits reflective of various faiths, meet-and-greet receptions for students, and literature distribution in outdoor areas.

A faith-based RSO Fair is set for Monday, Oct. 4, in the Student Center International Lounge. A discussion on Tuesday, Oct. 5, in the Student Center Ballrooms will look at societal issues from perspectives of each faith group.

Lipe sees the discussions as opportunities for free, open dialogue.

"We are asking people as they express themselves about their faith to do so very simply and very directly, and not to express it in contrast to other's groups," Lipe said.

The goal is facilitating "an open door where the faith communities in Southern Illinois can be engaged with students as they want to, and the students can see what is out there in the community," he added.

While faith-based universities have held similar events, Lipe believes the week planned at SIUC "is a little groundbreaking in a very secularized institution like this is."

Graduate student Kareem R. Vaughn is a member of the Faith Week Task Force, which includes various registered student organizations.

"There are people coming from different areas of the world who have different perspectives on the world view," he said. "To get a greater understanding of how they feel, why they feel the way they feel, you have to understand them."

The week is not to promote or discount anyone's views or feelings, but will serve as a pathway for greater understanding, said Vaughn.

A Web site with event information and a listing of participating registered student organizations is under development athttp://www.siu.edu/%7ecoc/Faith_Week.htm. For more information, contact Lipe at 618/559-2735.

Respecting and valuing differences in all their forms of expression are among the goals of Southern at 150: Building ExcellenceThrough Commitment, the blueprint for the development of the University by the time it celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2019.