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Interfaith Council at Binghamton University. Fall 2011 Community Engagement Program Asian and Asian American Studies Department. Chartered by CEP Students: Kayla Natrella Apoorva Aggarwal Faculty Advisor: Professor Lisa Yun Graduate Advisor: Sandy Woo. Our Mission.

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interfaith council at binghamton university

Interfaith Council at Binghamton University

Fall 2011

Community Engagement Program

Asian and Asian American Studies Department


Chartered by CEP Students:

Kayla Natrella


Faculty Advisor:

Professor Lisa Yun

Graduate Advisor:

Sandy Woo

our mission
Our Mission

To found a council of student representatives who will work together to promote campus-wide mutual understanding, respect, and appreciation for the diverse faiths and religious traditions.

goals of interfaith council
Goals of Interfaith Council
  • To hold council and general body meetings on alternating weeks.
  • To plan two main annual events: i.e. Interfaith Music & Culture Night and Interfaith Panel/Forum
  • To coordinate community service and host discussions and forums that initiate dialogue and nurture relationships among people of difference
  • To challenge the taboo against religious dialogue and address misconceptions about religions/faiths
  • To support and defend victims of religious discrimination on campus.

“No human life together without a world ethic for the nations.

No peace among the nations without peace among the religions.

No peace among the religions without dialogue among the religions.”

– Hans Kung,

Christian Theologian

initial inspiration
Initial Inspiration

In September, for our class, we read Asian American Literary Review: Commemorating the Tenth Anniversary of Sept. 11 (Volume 2, Fall 2011) and met issue co-editor and Washington DC attorney, Mr. ParagKhandhar. He visited our class to discuss “Post 9/11 Immigrant Communities: the backlash on the Middle Eastern and South Asian American communities” and the need many members of these communities felt to prove their “Americanness” or patriotism. The discussion really got us thinking about ways to address this type of backlash and ignorance and educate people about religion.

testimony page 25
Testimony (page 25)

“The way you see Muslims treated in the United States, it’s kind of similar to the story of Moby Dick. It’s about a captain who gets his leg bitten off by a whale and now seeks his revenge on all the whales in the sea. It’s linked to the lives of American Muslims—we are always judged in an unfair way by the terrorist attacks of 2001, just as all the other whales were treated unfairly in Moby Dick.

I wish that people who don’t like Muslims would give us a chance and try to understand how Muslims are trying to make it up to the United States. We feel really bad, but it’s not really our fault. How would you feel if someone from your religion did something bad and then you experienced bias because of that? Violence isn’t the key to resolving all the issues that we face today. Try to resolve issues with peace; then you will get more allies.

For me, the community I want to live in is where I would feel safe and comfortable to interact with others without having the thought of something bad happening to you” – UnaisIbrahim, Age 13

importance of interfaith dialogue post 9 11
Importance of Interfaith dialogue Post-9/11

After 9/11, Sikh Americans (primarily from the Punjab state of India) were victims of backlash and marginalized as pseudo-American because they were mistaken for being Muslim. These kinds of mistakes are the result of a lack of understanding about different religious traditions.

post 9 11 backlash victims
Post 9/11 Backlash Victims
  • Balbir Singh Sodhi
  • WaqarHasan
  • Vasudev Patel 
  • Adel Karas
  • Ali Almansoop
  • Jawed Wassel
  • Abdo Ali Ahmed
  • Abdullah Mohammed Nimer

See for more information about post 9/11 hate crime victims.

Furthermore, post 9/11, there has been backlash and discrimination against Muslim Americans because their religion is strongly associated with terrorism and violence due to lack of understanding about Islam.

“In June 2002, the National Security Entry-Exit registration System (NSEERS) was established; this grossly discriminatory system requires all male nationals over sixteen years of age from twenty-four Muslim-majority countries, including Pakistan and Bangladesh as well as North Korea, to submit to photographing and fingerprinting at federal immigration facilities…It would not be too dramatic to say that many in these communities feel under siege”

  • SunainaMaira, South Asian Muslim Youth in the United States after September 11th (335-336)

Wu, Jean Yu-wenShen, and Thomas C. Chen. Asian American Studies Now: a Critical Reader. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers UP, 2010. Print.


According to Fenggang Yang and Helen Rose Ebaugh’sReligion and Ethnicity Among New Immigrants: The Impact of Majority/Minority Status in Home and Host Countries, “Generally speaking, religion continues to be important for the new immigrants; that it continues to provide a social space for expressing ethnic differences; that religious organizations continue to serve both ethnic reproduction and assimilation functions; and that immigrants continue to adapt to the U.S. context.”


According to Backlash 9/11: Middle Eastern and Muslim Americans Respond by Anny P. Bakalian, MehdiBozorgmehr, “Interfaith exchanges are particularly significant to immigrant religious groups in establishing connections and resources” and “A leader in Dearborn credited the city’s ability to weather the 9/11 crisis to the religious leaders’ investments in interfaith networks…”

We believe that the establishment of an Interfaith Council could have been very helpful during the post 9/11 period in offering support and spreading awareness and understanding throughout the campus and community.

University of California Press; 1 edition (March 5, 2009)


“ I appreciate any organization or individual people who sincerely make an effort to promote harmony between humanity, and particularly harmony between the various religions. I consider it very sacred work and very important work”The Dalai Lama IV

does tolerance or interfaith work weaken your own religious beliefs or faith
Does tolerance or interfaith work weaken your own religious beliefs or faith?

“Dialogue between religions does not only entail relating the intensity or depth of our own faith but also witnessing and growing in it while understanding and respecting the faith of the other. Students in my comparative religions class, which I offer at the University of Denver, have often remarked that their faith and commitment to their own religious tradition has been strengthened by learning about other religions.” - Professor Liyakat Ali Takim


In this context, it is important to note that the etymology of the word “dialogue” is ‘dia’ in Greek, referring to the ‘act of seeing through’. Dialogue should empower us to ‘see through’ the faith of others, and enable us to reexamine our assumptions of the other based on the other’s definition of itself. Each group is able to better express what it believes and, in the process, to understand more deeply the meaning of what it means to be committed to a particular faith tradition. The process of self-definition also requires that each group express itself based on its own terms and for the partner in dialogue to accept and respect that self-definition. In the process, our preconceived notions of the other are challenged and often dramatically altered. This is the first step to moving beyond the stereotypes and misrepresentations of the past.” -

From Conversion to

Conversation: Interfaith

Dialogue in Post 9-11


Professor Liyakat Ali Takim

University of Denver

Denver, Colorado

forum kick off event
Forum/Kick-off event
  • On November 16, we hosted a forum where we invited Pastor Arthur Suggs from the First Congregational Church of Binghamton and Imam Kasimof the Islamic Organization of the Southern Tier in Johnson City.
  • We attended weekly meetings of religious groups on campus and presented our council idea. We invited a representatives from each religious group on campus to the forum.
  • We contacted a total of 14 student religious groups on campus that are SA chartered (list on following slide).
  • The forum was attended by representatives from the following groups:

Binghamton Sikh Association

Hindu Students Council

Indian Christian Fellowship

Korean America Christian Fellowship

Muslim Student Association

  • Also present at the event, were students who are interested in interfaith work, share our vision and would like to get involved with the council.
sa chartered r eligious g roups at binghamton university 2011
SA Chartered Religious Groups at Binghamton University (2011)
  • Binghamton Korean Catholic Community
  • Binghamton Sikh Association
  • Brothers and Sisters in Christ (BASIC)
  • Campus Bible Fellowship
  • Chabad
  • Chinese Christian Fellowship
  • Hillel-Jewish Student Union
  • Hindu Student Council
  • Indian Christian Fellowship
  • Intervarsity Christian Fellowship
  • Korean American Baptist Student Organization
  • Korean American Christian Fellowship
  • Muslim Student Association
  • Three Angels Message Christian Club
kick off forum
Kick-off Forum

At the forum, we discussed the background of and motivation behind the council. We discussed the importance of religion in immigrant communities and presented statistics that show how South Asian Americans and West Asian Americans were discriminated against because of their religious beliefs post 9/11. We also discussed the importance of interfaith exchanges and councils in a pluralistic society, and in responding to events, such as 9/11.

kick off forum1
Kick-off Forum

Members of 6 religions present (Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Sikhism) shared personal stories, as well as their feelings about and enthusiasm for the council.

Photo Credit: Professor Yun


From Pastor Arthur Suggs (bottom left) and Imam KasimKopuz (bottom right), we learned a lot about the interfaith work that is being done in the local community and what we can do to bridge the gap between the campus and local community. Both the pastor and imam are members of Broome County’s Interfaith Clergy Network.

forum inspires ideas
Forum Inspires Ideas….
  • Photo Credit: Professor Yun

Imam KasimKopuz and Pastor Arthur Suggs suggested that we join the interfaith dialogues in the community and get involved with off campus congregations for worship or service to help bridge the gap between the community and campus.


Pastor Suggs, as well as student attendee, Shen-En Lee discussed their experiences at the Council for the Parliament of the World Religions, held every 5 years and presented a plan to attend the next parliament meeting in 2014.


Interfaith Story Circles inspired by Dutchess County Interfaith Council:"The sharing of interfaith stories in the sacred circle began in 2004 with women who told faith stories from their own traditions at the Dutchess County Jail. It features storytellers who tell a prepared story on a chosen theme and then open the floor for those in attendance who are inspired to tell a story from their own tradition on the evening's theme. The Story Circles are hosted at different houses of worship so that participants can visit and learn about other sanctuaries of faith.”


Small group meetings in more intimate settings (i.e. Bubble Tea house) to help foster friendship and encourage trust which leads to more honest and revealing discussion.

  • Annual Interfaith Music Festival in which different religious groups present musical performances from their faith traditions

Student attendee, Shen-En Lee, has connections with a Buddhist Dharma Master Heng Shi (恆實法師) from her Buddhist high school in California and suggested engaging in webcam conversations with students there or connecting with Dharma Master Heng Shi and watching one of his webcasts. She plans to meet with him this summer.

sa charter process

SA Charter Process

We met with the Student Association Executive Vice President and presented our idea about the council.

We filled out the new charter application packet, collected 100 signatures of support, 10 signatures of potential members.

We formed an e-board consisting of President, Vice President and Treasurer, and formulated a constitution for the group.

We received feedback from the SA about the constitution and after making the necessary revisions, we met with the SA Rules Committee. After answering all their questions, they deliberated and decided to approve our charter pending Student Association approval the next week.

The SA approved the Rules Committee’s approval and we submitted a new charter registration.

finally we are a chartered organization on campus and plan to begin meeting spring 2012
Finally, we are a chartered organization on campus and plan to begin meeting Spring 2012!

Photo Credit: Professor Yun

photo sources
Photo Sources