tudents of a variety of religions from across campus met at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Institute of Religion at the University of Utah for an interfaith dialogue and service project on April 5.
Students from the Catholic Newman Center, Campus Bahá’í, Muslim Student Association and InterVarsity Christian Fellowship partnered with the LDS Institute to put on the interfaith event, and each was invited to provide “simple, faith-based presentations.” These presentations were part of the tabling portion of the event, where students and members of the community were welcomed to join the interfaith dialogue and learn more about each other’s religious beliefs. Upon entering the event, students made name tags on which they included their religious faith. Bracelets with the words “Interfaith Service Project 2018” and fortune cookies were handed out to students in attendance.
“I don’t think there are many more sensitive, personal topics than religion,” said freshman Jack Markman, who is LDS. “For most, it’s hard to find the right time to talk about it. This was a perfect opportunity for that, to open dialogues of religious diversity, to appreciate the variety in our different faiths. Best of all was participating in Bags to Beds, sharing our common goal to serve and help the needy. That’s pure religion.”
Following the tabling portion of the event, the students cooperated to turn plastic grocery bags into sleeping mats for the homeless in Salt Lake City with Bags to Beds, a student-run nonprofit at the U that works in partnership with the Bennion Center.
To make the sleeping mats, the plastic bags are folded, trimmed and cut into sections that are used to make plastic yarn, or plarn, that is then crocheted into 32 inches by 6-foot mats. Those who attended the event were asked to donate plastic bags to create the mats. A few student representatives from the Bennion Center attended the event, teaching students about the need for and importance of sleeping mats for the homeless to insulate them from the cold or wet ground. The mats are distributed at homeless outreach centers throughout the Salt Lake Valley.
To get involved with the Bennion Center, visit https://bennioncenter.org/. To learn more about or get involved with the Bags to Beds organization, visit its Facebook page, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or drop off plastic bags at one of its collection sites across the U’s campus, including the LDS Institute and Bennion Center.
“It was a wonderful experience to serve with members of other faiths,” said Jessie Rabe, a sophomore at the U and the Service Corner co-director at the Bennion Center who helped facilitate the Bags to Beds portion of the event. “I love how the Bags to Beds service project brought together people from all different faiths as we worked toward the common goal of alleviating homelessness in our community.”