by Salman Qureshi
I’ve always been drawn to conversation. Whether I’m at the dinner table or I’m at a ball game, I’ve always found dialogue as a tool to connect with people. Dialogue allows people with different backgrounds to learn about each other’s differences and find the similarities between them. This inspired me to find a way to bind students together through dialogue. As the CFV Interfaith Intern, I wanted to develop an avenue where people of different faith backgrounds could come together to share their beliefs in a welcoming manner. Most of all, I wanted to share and celebrate the religious diversity that exists at Butler with the entire community.
Would students be genuinely interested in being involved? Would they find it uncomfortable or uninviting? Maybe they would not even bother in participating with preconceived notions about interfaith? As I started on this journey, I had questions these and other questions that eventually helped shape what the Interfaith Council would become. I connected with fellow CFV staff to develop a program that was built on conversation and togetherness, rather than hierarchy and misconceptions.
Thankfully, all of my questions were answered quickly by Council members. From the first meeting, I’ve seen the positivity that has come from the group. We have found a large amount of similarities between our respective faith traditions and gained a deeper understanding of our differences. Our conversations are built on a foundation of tolerance and engagement, allowing everyone to connect beliefs to one another to build a strong sense of community. Discussions often carry over long after the meeting is over and push us to dive in deeper in our own faiths. Most importantly, I have seen strong friendships between Council members that will last long after this semester. With that, I know that interfaith dialogue will continue to grow here at Butler and long after.
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by Natalie Smith
Center for Faith and Vocation Communications Intern
Growing up, I attended very diverse schools. I was always surrounded by people who came from different backgrounds and looked, thought and spoke differently than I did. I thought this was a completely normal experience for anyone my age. Arriving at Butler, I quickly realized that my background in diversity was very different from my friends’ around me. I found that my best friends at Butler were used to only being around people who were similar to them. Because Butler itself lacks substantial diversity, my next four years as a student would find me where my friends had always been: surrounded by homogeneity. Interning at the CFV this semester, however, has helped me to be reunited with the amount of diversity that I have always felt comfortable in. I’ve gotten the opportunity to work and form relationships with people of many different faiths, backgrounds and thoughts.
My favorite CFV event I participated in was leading a post-election discussion entitled: “How do we participate in patterns of injustice?” I got to witness first-hand the outpouring of support and compassion that was given to students who spoke openly about how they have faced injustices in our society. That small display of the Butler community coming together was life-affirming and is a memory that will always stay with me.
The CFV staff genuinely cares about the Butler community’s wellbeing and growth. Being around these passionate people has helped me to understand the true value in a workday. My hope for future interns is that they are able to see the benefits of diversity. I hope they can truly appreciate the CFV’s work and mission and learn something about themselves through that mission like I have.
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by Kaytlin Lake
My experience at the Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic this semester has been so incredibly influential to my vocational trajectory. As a non-profit, pro bono legal service, the clinic works with clients who just want to be heard, validated, and stood up for in a world where the odds seem to always be stacked against them. Specifically in the immigration department, I have had the privilege of meeting some of the real people affected by hot-topic government policies. A mother fleeing domestic violence in Mexico was being tracked like an animal by a bulky ankle cuff. A father feared deportation while his young son was receiving medical treatment for his recently discovered Leukemia. A working professional sought asylum from Venezuela where a popular gang had been terrorizing their entire family because of alleged government ties. I witnessed flaws in our esteemed legal system, but I also witnessed the selfless love and commitment to justice that the volunteers and staff of the Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic and its partners exhibit each and every day. My heart was broken, the perfect image in my head of this great country was shattered, but most importantly a fire was lit inside of me to relentlessly fight for the defenseless, to be a model of compassion and empathy, and to always remember that actual human beings on the ground are affected by each government policy put in place, each law passed, each court trial decided. These lives affected are not statistics, not theoretic ethical dilemmas or case studies. These are brothers, daughters, fathers, grandmothers — real people — and they need my help.
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by Lauren Merk
This semester I have had the privilege of working at Trinity Free Clinic in Carmel, Indiana. The Catholic nonprofit provides free healthcare to Hamilton County residents who would otherwise not have access to medical attention. Having never completed an internship, I didn’t know exactly what to expect, but after a semester at the Clinic, I can truly say that my experiences have been invaluable.
On my first day interning, my supervisor and director of marketing, Autumn Zawadzki, made me feel welcomed. It was clear from the beginning that she was going to give me opportunities to learn and further develop my marketing and PR skills. I wrote press releases, researched sponsors and community partners, and spent a lot of time helping Autumn plan the Clinic’s annual fall fundraiser, the 5K Run for Wellness. I also spent the semester working on a comprehensive PR plan for the Clinic. The plan includes ideas for future marketing programming and offers a comprehensive look at the Clinic’s PR and marketing strategies. I was incredibly excited to work on this project and leave ideas with an organization that now means so much to me.
I cannot fully express in just 200 words how appreciative I am for my experience at Trinity Free Clinic. The professional experience I gained is invaluable and the opportunity to witness and be part of the Clinic’s mission was humbling. I have grown so much this semester and owe so much of that to my internship.
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by Natalie Smith
On Thursday, November 17th, I attended A New View Film Series’ screening of Inocente, a documentary following a young artist who struggles with being a homeless, undocumented immigrant. The film had a greater impact on me than I imagined that it would. Art has never been an area that I was particularly interested in, so the idea of a film centering on an artist’s life didn’t appeal to me at first. I found that the film is about so much more than one artist’s journey. It tackles the complicated issues of immigration, homelessness, domestic violence, and poverty while outlining the positive impact art has had on this young girl’s life. For Inocente, art is a way of survival. While watching her journey to find positivity, I found myself wanting to hear from others in her position to see how they have responded as well. The audience discussion following the film was a powerful addition to this experience. Some audience members brought up stories from their personal lives and how the film sheds light on truth. Others talked about the greater problems in society that lead to the issues seen on screen. One student analyzed public policy and debated which was better: giving each child a paint set so everyone has a chance, but might not get far, or focusing in on one person and helping them flourish to great potential, but not letting every student experience art. Overall, I gained many new perspectives on a topic I didn’t think a lot about from watching this film.
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by Hannah Martin
Interning at the Center for Interfaith Cooperation (CIC) helped me recommit to my personal values and determine what I will look for in my future careers. Out of all my internships, the CIC provided me with the most freedom and support to design my own program.
My role at the CIC was to develop community relations with Indiana’s Asian religious communities and then design a program to bring these communities together. There was no guidebook on how to do this. It was completely up to me to use my connecting skills to research and learn about Indiana’s Asian religious communities.
From this experience, I learned that I chose the right major and I want to work in a nonprofit organization. From class, I know that nonprofits are working to strengthen their community engagement programs and my connecting skills will be an asset to improve these endeavors. Additionally, I learned that I will always seek out places with foreign communities. Even in a small place like the CIC, I shared an office with people from Africa, Europe, and the Middle East. We all had our own cultural quirks which made every day a new learning experience.
For anyone interested in interning with the CIC, you will have a lot of great resources to create your own interfaith program. I never felt like I was bogged down with busy work; everything I did had a purpose and I felt like a staff member by the end of the program.
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by Trevor Spellman
This semester I had the opportunity to intern with the Center for Interfaith Cooperation (CIC). Working with this passionate group of individuals dedicated to the purpose of cooperatively among all religious affiliations was an incredible learning experience. Throughout my internship I focused on improving the relationships between the CIC’s immigration and refugee service core members and their respective partner organizations to improve the overall efficacy of the program. In the process, I was able to apply the skills that I have attained in my study of Psychology at Butler to create comprehensive surveys that will allow for in depth analysis in the future. While I was working on this assignment, my eyes were opened to all of the great and beneficial service organizations throughout the Indianapolis community. Working with the Center for Interfaith Cooperation was a great way to get out of my comfort zone and get exposure to the true Indianapolis community beyond the Butler Bubble. As an intern, I was able to meet some of the most prominent religious leaders in Indiana, such as KP Singh, and realize the Hoosier state’s relevance as a leader in interfaith cooperation at the national level (we’ll even be hosting the Dali Lama this June!) Overall, my time with the Center for Interfaith Cooperation was an extremely rewarding and beneficial experience. I was able to further my understanding of interfaith cooperatively, enhance the efficacy of service programs, develop a stronger sense of belonging to the Indianapolis community, and meet people that have influenced me greatly.
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by Sarah Fuquay, Junior Sociology Major with a concentration in Social Work
My internship with the CFV has been a truly wonderful experience. I did not really know what to expect going into it, but it turned out to be a very rewarding and insightful opportunity for me. As a Sociology and Social Work major, I was worried that I might struggle with some of the Communications aspects of my internship. However, I learned that it was a great learning experience for me, and the internship really helped me to develop skills that I didn’t have before. Marguerite and Daniel were also very helpful and encouraging as well, which really helped me when I felt a little out of my element at times.
Aside from the work aspect of my internship, I also gained a lot of self-awareness about my purpose and what I am truly passionate about. The intern reflection meetings we had throughout the semester were very insightful and meaningful to me because they were very thought provoking and encouraged me to really think about my passions and my future. After this semester, I am even more confident in what I am studying as well as my plans for the future. This internship really solidified what I consider to be my vocation, and it encouraged me to pursue it.
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by Anna Rauh
You would think that after living through 21 years of time passing, I would get used to the speed of things. But here I am, at the end of another semester, wondering how I got here. Five days a week I have come to the CFV for the past four months. When I got this internship, I had only come inside the Blue House once, and I had no idea how much it would have in store for me. Coming back from being abroad last semester, it was a transition that took time. The people around me at the CFV were there to listen, though, and they were truly invested in helping me soul search and find my own passions through this experience. The Blue House has been a safe space for me to think, to talk, to laugh, to write, to design, and to expand my realm of experience. I have led discussions on study abroad, sex positivity, diversity in spirituality, and graduating from Butler. I have sat on a panel of students who challenged administrators to push the boundaries and foster more spiritual learning at this university. I have been to seminars on diversity and heard people speak who have inspired me and opened my mind to new ways of thinking. I have worked under and with people who have educated me on topics I didn’t know I needed to be educated on. I have sat with other interns and discussed my calling and the meaning of life. I have applied my design and public relations skills from my academic studies to make a lasting impression on people outside the Center. I have served others, and through this work, I have come one step further on my journey toward a life of meaning and purpose.
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by Olivia Sonell
This semester I’ve had the pleasure to serve as the Interfaith Intern for the Center for Faith and Vocation at Butler University. For me this has meant a lot of things; for one it means that I got a position I really wanted. Ever since I was really young I’ve wanted to be involved in religious activity in some way and while that may have waned to an extent during my time at Butler, this last year it has been an extremely important part of my life and my academic study. Exploring the variety of religious faiths and life has been an immensely rewarding experience, and my CFV internship has done nothing but encourage reflection on my and other’s values, our connection to each other, and what my responsibilities are in the world as a person of faith.
One of the big things I did as part of the internship was to organize off campus community dialogue. I organized two outings to local congregations: one Jewish, one Muslim – with the specific intent of creating a space for interfaith dialogue between those of faith difference. Both of these “excursions” as I called them were incredibly educational. At the Reform synagogue Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation, I learned that many Jewish congregations pray over bread and wine at the end of Shabbat service, after which they eat a meal – I couldn’t help but make the connection to the Christian Eucharist of the body and blood and wonder if this Jewish ritual was where the Christian one began.
The mosque visit I organized was to Nur-Allah Islamic Center, which has been in existence in various forms for around fifty years. Nur-Allah has its origins in the Nation of Islam (which taught that God was Black and the white man was the devil) and has since moved towards a more orthodox and more universal vision of Islam centered around the Unity of God and the “brotherhood of man” (though I myself prefer the terms like “kinship of humanity”.) Their Imam Michael Saahir, was extremely personable and very pleased it seemed to be sharing his faith with us. He spoke of the Prophets Jesus and Muhammad and the unity of their message – and how that relates to recognizing the truth in all religions. As a gender non-conforming person I took the liberty of asking Imam Saahir how might a bi-gendered space account for a person who is not man or woman. This led to discussion amongst Imam Saahir, the congregation, myself and my CFV supervisor Daniel Meyers on how accommodation would occur. In the end it was decided simply to have all the guests sit in chair on their own side of the room, so while we were in a since “segregated” from the congregants, we ourselves sat how and with whom we pleased. There was some additional “fallout” from this visit, but it occurred in a way that simply creates another learning experience for myself.
In all, with the different outings, the somewhat bi-weekly conversations, the field trips to show solidarity with faith communities in Indy, and my own continuing personal exploration I feel very fulfilled by this internship. Where I see myself going forward, as I am graduating this May, has been shaped by my work here. I am firm in my commitment to creating interfaith, intrafaith, and multi-faith understanding when and where I can; I find this work extremely fulfilling as it is for me a way of fulfilling the “Gospel Mandate” – “to proclaim good news to the poor, bring healing to the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.” (Isaiah 61:1)
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