This year, The Office of Religious and Spiritual Life (ORSL) is starting a new initiative in collaboration with other organizations on campus to promote peace and meditation. Last Wednesday was the first of many planned Place for Peace meetings. These meetings, held in the Multifaith Center, are designed to promote healthy relaxation techniques on the Wellesley College campus.
The ORSL plans to use Place for Peace as well as other events throughout the semester to promote peace and tolerance on campus. The initiative for peace is part of a series of events hosted by ORSL in collaboration with other organizations such as Wellesley College Health Services and the Stone Center. The Office of Religious and Spiritual Life recorded an attendance of 25 people at the Sunday meeting. They hope for the number to increase as the academic year progresses.
Students who were unable to attend said they heard from others that the event was very successful.
“I heard it was really great,” says Kindred Obas ’19, a member of a Christian group on campus CRU.
According to Tiffany Steinwert, the Dean of Religious and Spiritual Life at Wellesley College and the leader of Peace for Peace, the initiative is a space for students to come together and support one another in times of both hardship and jubilation.
“Peace for Peace not only provides a supportive space for students to talk about what is on their hearts, it also creates a community where we can turn when tragedy strikes. We at Wellesley College know when something happens we can always find support at the Multifaith Center at 12:30 p.m. on Wednesdays.”
Last year, Wellesley College dealt with Islamophobia on campus in light of attacks that occurred throughout the world in fall of 2015. During finals week, a banner for peace put together by students was defaced with Islamophobic slurs. During the spring of last year, students, along with the administration, began to combat this issue by condemning the attacks and hosting a series of events focused on educating the campus on tolerance for all faiths and backgrounds.
Although Place for Peace was not a direct response to islamophobia on campus last semester, it does intersect with initiatives to promote tolerance and condemn discrimination against any religion or other belief system on campus. The Place for Peace talks are meant to be a safe space for students to talk about what is troubling them on campus as well as current events around the nation and world.
The Wellesley College administration as well as students are tackling the issue of discrimination head on with a series of events throughout the year. This Wednesday, the Multifaith Council, sponsored by the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life, is bringing speaker Amer Ahmed, The Director of Intercultural Teaching and Faculty Development at The University of Massachusetts at Amherst, to host a workshop on being an ally to the Muslim community on campus and the similarities between different forms of discrimination and oppression.
Students such as Sidikha Ashraf ’19, Co-Social Chair of Al-Muslimat, a group on campus campus dedicated to meeting the needs of Muslim students on campus, are excited that the college is taking a proactive role in combatting Islamophobia on campus and hope for more to be done in the future.
“They (Wellesley College) have really tried and have been doing a great job compared to other colleges,” Ashraf said.
Ashraf is also glad that groups such as The Multifaith Council exist to lend a student voice to affairs occurring on The Wellesley College campus. She is confident that Wellesley will take a larger role this year in cultivating a more inclusive community.
Student Liku Abera ’17, a member of The Christian Organization Cru, also views the efforts by the college favorably. She hopes it can lead to more tolerance and teach the Wellesley College community “how to love each other better.”