One student group that I have attended is the interfaith Council. In this setting students from various religious, ethnic, spiritual, and cultural groups can join together to share experiences and stories about peace and cooperation in an era of uncertainty. I first attended this meeting as a board member of Hillel, a Jewish group on campus, representing interfaith and cultural diversity. During this meeting many interesting topics were brought up. One of the most pressing issues was the Muslim Ban, which president Donald Trump has put into action. This order calls for a ban on citizens from seven Muslim majority countries. Northeastern, which accepts students from many of these seven countries is posed with an important decision as it needs to ensure that students and faculty are protected and safe during this time. In this meeting, however, we discussed the importance of the community in creating solutions to these problems. We looked at the collaboration between different faith groups and the necessary actions that need to be taken to support marginalized or oppressed peoples both on campus and around the world. The group further discussed the importance of love and tolerance. A speaker had come to give a presentation at the school a few weeks prior and had advocated that people take a stance of love in order to combat the hateful and discriminatory rhetoric that persists around the country and the globe. During the interfaith council meeting, we looked at group projects such as public protests, campus-wide panels, and other peaceful forms of advocacy.
While the main topics of this meeting revolved around domestic issues and policies, there were also many examples of international causes. Many students who were in attendance were from other countries and were able to share valuable experiences with the rest of the group. One of the members in attendance was from a country within the European Union area. She described the strong negative sentiment that persisted in her country because of the influx of refugees from predominately Muslim nations. She explained that people only saw these refugees, many of whom had suffered long and traumatic experiences trying to gain refuge abroad, as economic and political burdens. She explained that while many of these refugees had hoped that Europe would provide safety and security from their homes in war-stricken and broken communities, they were greeting with strong hostility and neglect once they reached the boarder. For many people this was something we had known about. We understand that the growing numbers of refugees and asylum seekers from Muslim nations mixed with the ongoing threat of international terrorism has proved to be a struggle for millions of people. We talked about ways in which we can change the negative stereotypes that envelop these people and provide support and resources to refugees in our community who feel isolated and alienated from others. The refugee crisis is international in the extent to which people travel to seek asylum and the degree to which it affects people and nations around the world.
The final topic that was discussed at the meeting was the idea of promoting diversity. Northeastern is a very global school with a focus on integrating people from near and far into a unique and cultural diverse environment. However, there are often instances in which groups are marginalized and underrepresented. We talked about collaboration with other student groups on campus to see what ways we could come together as a community to ensure that our environment was open, friendly, and accepting of all people. Along these same lines, the idea of bringing in more professional speakers and experts to talk about issues of tolerance, peace, and collaboration was advocated. Overall, I found this group to be a very positive and progressive example of the affects students can have when they join together and advocate change. I was pleased to see that it was entirely student lead and that all members were treated equally and respectfully. Also, as far as I am aware, there was no board or executive branch by which people were more powerful than others. Instead, everyone’s had fair representation and nobody’s ideas were rejected or suppressed. It was exciting for me, as international affairs major to see that the group was talking about both foreign and domestic issues. Also, I am very passionate about human rights. I saw a strong undertone of human rights discussion with an emphasis on providing resources for refugees, revoking discriminatory policies based on religion, and fighting for all people no matter their background or national identity. This group was a fun and meaningful experience for me. Not only did I have to opportunity to meet new people and engage in rigorous and relevant discussions, I was also able to share my personal opinions and insights despite being a new member to the group. Overall, I found the interfaith council to be a very noble student organization that works to promote peace, tolerance, and acceptance for all students throughout the Northeastern University campus and beyond.