"Six religions gather in the spirit of Thanksgiving, discuss beliefs and traditions "
Over 80 people of varying religions and faiths gathered in Pistachio's on Friday for a night of education, diversity and unity. The Jewish Student Union hosted an Interfaith Thanksgiving dinner, catered by the Kosher Deli, to encourage dialogue between various religions on campus.
The purpose was to spread ideas and foster new relationships between the various Campus Ministries clubs at UB, according to Hillel President Joe Ornstein, a senior media study major.
The InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, University Baptist Church, St. Joseph University Church/Newman Center, Latter-day Saint Student Association, Bah??'?_ faith, Hillel and Jewish Student Union attended the event.
The evening started out with salad and mingling, giving attendees a chance to make new friends and start to learn about other faiths. Although dinner started out segregated, each religion sitting at their own table, the seating arrangements changed after everyone stood up to get salad.
Members of InterVarsity were talking about their Christian beliefs with the Jewish Hillel members, sharing traditions, customs and beliefs about giving thanks.
"Interfaith connections are so important," said Christine Schaefer, a junior German and history major and member of Intervarsity. "I feel I never get to talk to other students about topics like this, and that fact that we are all opening up to each other is such a good thing. I am learning so much."
After eating salad and briefly getting to know one another, each organization was given about five minutes to speak to the entire group on matters of religion, giving thanks and what faith means to them.
Danielle Chevalier, an industrial & systems engineering major and the historian of InterVarsity, started the speeches off with a tragic story about texting and driving, making the point that "we shouldn't only be grateful on Thanksgiving; giving thanks to God should happen every day."
Every organization's message revolved around that same theme - people shouldn't only be thankful one day a year.
Father Patrick Keleher, known as Father Pat, the director and campus minister for the Newman Center, gave a speech revolving around the idea of "praying for people who seem to have nothing to be thankful for."
Pastor Dale Meredith of the University Baptist Church agreed with Father Pat's message, and the pastor's speech revolved around having hope that the lives of people in need will get better this holiday season.
This unity of religions and faiths is a main pillar of belief for people of the Bah??'?_ faith. With only approximately 300 members in the Buffalo area, the Bah??'?_ faith was one of the lesser-known religions represented at the dinner.
The main belief of the Bah??'?_ is the "unity of man and that we as people are responsible for taking care of one another," according to Einas Schifferle, a member of the Bah??'?_ faith for 14 years.
"We believe everything comes from one source, with a different name, at a different point in history but it always serves a purpose: to connect people with a higher being," Shifferle said. "So Bah??'?_s don't have any conflicts with any other faiths. We want unity with all faiths."
Ornstein had never heard of this religion before and was excited they came to the event to educate the students and people on attendance about their beliefs and traditions. Throughout the dinner, he came to realize that although each religion has different traditions, customs and sometimes languages, they have similar beliefs.
"Anytime world religion is discussed, the first thing that's talked about is our differences," Ornstein said. "When in reality, seeing what everyone thinks and what our laws dictate, we all believe in the same thing. At the core of religion there is that nugget of a golden rule: that we all just want to be good people."
Schaefer agrees and enjoyed having the opportunity to learn about other religions over a turkey dinner. She thinks interfaith sharing should be something that happens more than once and not only during the holiday season.
"This gives students a place to discuss topics that may not get to be brought up in casual conversation," she said. "Maybe next time InterVarsity will host an interfaith dinner to keep this education going."