Bethany College Creates Prayer Room in Time for Ramadan

As the 2020 COVID-19 semester began, we were holding classes outside and Zooming in on one of our professors from the Gaza Strip for our “Interreligious Ethics” class. We were piloting an exciting new team-taught class with a Jewish, Christian, and Muslim professor: our class emphasized dialogue in the service of intersectional ethical issues and utilized portions of IFYC’s curricula. 

One of the goals of the class was for students to serve the Bethany and wider community through interfaith dialogue and action. As the final project for the class, we wanted to do something that would make our campus a more inclusive, interreligious place. We knew that is If Israel would allow her travel, our co-teacher would need a prayer space once she got here. Additionally, we hoped that others would also use the space if it was set up. 

Our students in the class, all Christians and non-affiliated students, met on Zoom with our Muslim professor, and they ascertained what we would need. We obtained prayer mats, curtains to separate prayer spaces, a Qibla indicator, and a Qur’an. The students divided into groups and we began to construct the space out of an empty office on our Religious Studies hallway. We publicized this initiative at a faculty meeting and were able to get some donations. One professor donated some calligraphy that came from her family to beautify the space. We installed a digital lock on the door to provide some security and privacy. We reached out to students who were Muslim who might want to use the space, but we did not think space got used that semester.

During Ramadan this semester, we know that multiple students are using the space, including some of our international students. We are happy that we have been able to offer this space of hospitality that also offers snacks and water to help students fasting and eating outside of normal cafeteria hours. Our students were all eager to meet our Fulbright professor but unfortunately, her permission to travel was denied, complicated by COVID and the political entanglements in the Gaza Strip.

The students are proud of their work, as it aligns with their interreligious values. Levi Goddard, a Religious Studies minor, says, “The inclusion of this prayer space solidifies what I’ve come to know about Bethany: diversity is the driving force of our education. Despite Bethany being a Christian-affiliated college, there is always room for other traditions. Our hope is that this prayer space offers solace and refuge for those of other traditions. At Bethany, there is always room for people of other cultures, religious beliefs, and practices. I am very proud of how this idea manifested into something tangible.” 

Geoff Foster, a Religious Studies double major, says of the project, “This provides a way to help make Bethany more diverse with religious beliefs. When looking on the school website you don't see options for other religious beliefs outside of Christianity, and by adding a Muslim prayer space it provides another opportunity for a place to celebrate a different belief.” Jennifer Oberthur, also a Religious Studies double major, says, “It is important to understand the intricacies of religions not my own and to give others  the opportunity to openly and freely practice their religions.”

At Bethany College, in a little town in West Virginia, our students, with the help of IFYC, have understood interfaith ethics by putting their interreligious values into action. They learned from differences and diversified their thinking. We have a prayer space to show for it that our students can use now and in the future. 


If you are looking for a way to become an interfaith leader, work for racial equity and build bridges, please check out our free curriculum "We Are Each Other's" and start your interfaith leadership today

more from IFYC

"99.8% of U.S. deaths are of the unvaccinated. If you heard of an airline of that percentage dying, whereas a 0.02% on another, you’re switching flights." -- Dr. Jimmie Smith, Macon-Bibb County Health Department, Georgia.
As a scholar of religious studies, I frequently use critical race theory as a tool to better understand how religion operates in American society.
Inspired by their faith, four LDS students built new study resource that has revolutionized how hundreds of thousands of aspiring physicians study for their exams. "It really started because we just wanted to help people," one said.
We're now in one of the holiest seasons of the year for one of smallest and oldest religions in India -- one with a long history in the United States.
Organizing on-campus vaccination clinics, calling thousands of students, hosting informational webinars with medical experts – these are some of the ways in which IFYC’s Faith in the Vaccine Ambassadors (FIVA) have been raising awareness around the COVID-19 vaccine on campuses and high-need communities across the nation.
Last year's winners, listed below, created a range of initiatives, from virtual retreats and criminal justice initiatives to book clubs and racial equity workshops.
Religious objections, once used sparingly around the country to get exempted from various required vaccines, are becoming a much more widely used loophole against the COVID-19 shot.
What will the campus chapel, and the chaplaincy, look like more than a century from now? Let the adventure begin.
The issue is not the presence of religion in the public square. Instead, the question before us is how to express those religious commitments within in a pluralistic society.
We don’t know what the year 5782 – as it is in the Hebrew calendar – has in store for any of us. But we have the power to act in a way to do right by each other and bring a little more peace and love and joy into this profoundly broken world.
The following interview features Dr. Toby Bressler, senior director of nursing for oncology and clinical quality at the Mount Sinai Health System and vice president of the Orthodox Jewish Nurses Association.
Part of what I found so beautiful about our conversation is that we both agree that American pluralism is not simply a pragmatic solution to the challenge of a diverse democracy, it is also a kind of sacred trust that God intends us to steward.
After 9/11, there was increased intentionality in widening interfaith relations to include a broader number of faith groups and discussions. Twenty years later, it is not unusual to see interreligious conferences, joint advocacy efforts and disaster relief teamwork involving faith groups ranging from Adventists to Zoroastrians.
Twenty years later, we at IFYC, like so many others, collect the shards of memory, recollecting, reconstituting the trauma and horror of that day. And the sacredness is in doing so together.
As we approach this significant anniversary of 9/11, we must work to infuse the day with purpose and pluralism. Pay it Forward 9/11 is bringing people together to do 20,000 good deeds for the 20th anniversary.
In the first month since 9/11, The Sikh Coalition documented over 300 cases of violence and religious discrimination against Sikhs in the U.S. and has since grown to become the largest Sikh advocacy and civil rights organization in the country.
“If you were to quiz these students on what happened on 9/11, they think they knew what happened, but nobody really explained it to them,” Lisa Doi said. “I had to think through, how do you teach this history to somebody who doesn’t really remember it?”
My prayer is that for as long as we remember 9/11, that we will take time to listen to the stories of loss that break our hearts, and join together in finding ways to heal the division, violence and hate that continue to tear apart our world.
It has been 20 years, but the pain of that day is still present in so many places.
20 years after the 9/11 attacks, four remarkable people took profound suffering, loss and grief and “somehow managed to not center enemies. What can we learn from that? How can that be a teaching to the culture?”
Now the entire planet is our garden, and Rosh Hashana is our chance to remember that we are all descended from the original gardeners — that we are here, each of one us, to tend our chosen plots as best we can.

The opinions contained in this piece are solely the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Interfaith Youth Core. Interfaith America encourages a wide range of views and strives to maintain a respectful tone with a goal of greater understanding and cooperation between people of different faiths, worldviews, and traditions.