Teaching Lived Interreligious Encounter in a Virtual COVID-19 World

Image from (Inter)Religious Literacy & Encounter in a COVID19 World site

Passengers stretched, yawned, and rustled in their seats as we taxied to the jetway at Minneapolis-St. Paul airport. My flight just landed. The sounds of mobile phones toggling out of airplane mode with rings, dings, and clicks filling the stale cabin air. My phone buzzed. One text message caught my eye: “UST ALERT: St. Thomas announces it will start online classes on Monday, March 16th. Campus operations remain open. See e-mail from President Sullivan for details.”

Several days prior, on the last day of class before our spring break, I bid my students farewell and told them to consider preparing themselves for the possibility that we may not see each other after spring break and perhaps much longer. Our class moved and remained online for the duration of the spring semester.

For the looming summer and fall terms that were to come, I was scheduled to teach a handful of courses called “Interreligious Encounter.” The central learning experience in this course requires students to journey beyond the classroom, off-campus, and into the community to engage the lived religious diversity of our region. Indeed, it seemed that much of the world had moved online, including public encounters across diverse religious perspectives. Religious communities, houses of worship, and public spaces of encounter were now closed. Of course, as the world migrated to online mode, religion didn’t cease being lived nor did interreligious encounters stop cold. Major components of religious practice and interreligious encounter moved with the world to online spaces.

My students pivoted from engaging lived religious diversity in our local metro area to virtual opportunities for interreligious encounter in the United States and around the globe. The concrete outcome of their experiences culminated in the creation of an online public StoryMap that documents their public narratives and stories of encounter as they relate to interfaith leadership and virtues, appreciation and knowledge, and global dialogue.

By clicking the hyperlinked title below, you may browse this story-mapped collection of brief narratives and their accompanying links, images, videos, and audio.

“Inter(Religious) Literacy and Encounter in a COVID19 World”

Public Narratives & Stories from students at the University of St. Thomas (Minnesota)

Summer & Fall 2020

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

As the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. echoed Theodore Parker, ‘the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.’ Let’s bend it together.
In both my work as an interfaith leader and a dancer, rethinking is all about opening our minds, asking questions, and having conversations.
Some U.S. churches have been reckoning with this activity for years through ceremonies, apologies and archival investigations, while others are just getting started.
A global study of the communication patterns of 1.3 million workers during the global lockdown showed the average workday increased by 8.2% during the pandemic, and the average number of virtual meetings per person expanded by almost 13%.
Across Missouri, hundreds of pastors, priests and other church leaders are reaching out to urge vaccinations in a state under siege from the delta variant. Health experts say the spread is due largely to low vaccination rates — Missouri lags about 10 percentage points behind the national average for people who have initiated shots.
The solution, said Chris Palusky, president and CEO of Bethany Christian Services, is “the loving care of a family, not another orphanage.” He pointed to Scripture passages that say God sets the lonely in families and call on Christians to care for those who have been orphaned.
The following interview features Debra Fraser-Howze, founder and president of Choose Healthy Life, an initiative that fortifies community infrastructure to better address the pandemic in Black communities. The interview was conducted by Shauna Morin for IFYC; it has been edited and condensed for clarity.
The seven monks have been clearing brush from around the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center and running a sprinkler system dubbed “Dharma rain,” which helps keep a layer of moister around the buildings.
Over 800 Muslim Americans are expected to attend the family-focused event at the Green Meadows Petting Farm in Ijamsville, Maryland, making it one of the larger such gatherings around the country in the era of COVID-19.
Besides demanding equitable distribution of vaccines, the Interfaith Vigil for Global COVID-19 Vaccine Access called on the World Trade Organization to waive intellectual property rights for vaccine manufacturing in order to enable more countries to produce COVID-19 vaccines domestically.
Eid al-Adha, or the “Feast of Sacrifice,” is typically marked by communal prayers, large social gatherings, slaughtering of livestock and giving meat to the needy.
Our Lady of La Vang is said to have appeared in a remote rainforest in the late 1700s to a group of Catholics fleeing persecution in Vietnam.
This article is part of a series called Faith in the Field that explores responses to Covid-19—including vaccination efforts—within different faith communities. 
Yet the debate about the vaccine in Tennessee is not solely a debate about science. Rather, I believe the vaccine debate is also a referendum on our public capacity to embrace vulnerability.
The study found that while there are many promising signs that students perceive support for their RSSIs on campus, there is also considerable room for improving welcome, particularly for students whose RSSIs are a minority.
Coronavirus deaths among clergy are not just a Catholic problem, said Andrew Chesnut, chair of Catholic studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, with faith leaders across denominations having elevated exposure rates as “spiritual front-line workers” ministering to the sick and dying in hospitals and nursing homes.
Legislation legalizing human composting has encountered religious resistance from the Catholic Church.
From the 26th of November, 2020, a farmers protest has been in existence on the outskirts of Delhi, India’s capital city. For the past eight months, farmers in the tens of thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands, have been fighting three laws that threaten the future of agriculture in the country.
Sivan and I feel that it is crucial to work for increased vaccination rates, particularly with more transmissible and potentially more deadly variants emerging across the country and throughout the world.
We made calls to friends, disseminated flyers, engaged in social media marketing, partnered with faith-based communities, and engaged the local health department to encourage members of our community to come to our upcoming clinic and get vaccinated.
"It’s not about accepting other’s beliefs and pushing your own away - it is about being respectful, while still having the freedom to express your beliefs"

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.