The Rapidian

Kaufman Interfaith Institute introduces "Year of Interfaith Friendship" for 2018

Followers of multiple religions will be able to engage in community events ranging from movie screenings, book clubs, restaurant gatherings and others
Photo courtesy of Kaufman Interfaith Institute Facebook page

Photo courtesy of Kaufman Interfaith Institute Facebook page

Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, and followers of other religions have historically had trouble seeing eye-to-eye, dating back hundreds of years. For a long time, people have only seen the world inside their own echo chambers, without appreciating the beliefs and cultures of other people.

This year, the Kaufman Interfaith Institute has declared 2018 the “Year of Interfaith Friendship” to help bring individuals of different faiths together and find similarities between themselves through different community events.

Book lovers, foodies, movie junkies and even knitters will find events that will cater to their needs, where they have the opportunity to make friends of those of other religions, or the same.

The goal of these bi-weekly or monthly events is to bring people of different world views or philosophies together to share their own life experiences in a way that is comfortable and familiar, according to program manager of the Institute, Kyle Kooyers.

“We want to create more friendship; friendships that are interfaith, so that people might be a little more open and willing to celebrate, embrace and enjoy the rich diversity of West Michigan,” Kooyers said.

He said these affinity groups or events are similar to day-to-day activities that people do, which helps individuals recognize things they have in common, despite religious boundaries.

“One of the greatest ways to make a new friend is find somebody who has a shared love or hobby,” Kooyers said.

Kooyers said when it comes to interfaith relations in the world, by and large people are somewhat isolated. He said people do not have enough relationships with those who think, look, and believe in different things. The Institute wants to help to change that.

“One of our biggest goals is to break down some of those barriers.and help to eliminate a lot of stigmas, bias, and unfortunately ignorance around different faith traditions and non-faith traditions,” he said, “because it's so easy to get caught in that trap of assuming what you hear is true for everybody of that world view.”

He said he wants the event to highlight diversity.

“The world is a big place, but it's incredible to see just how global even Grand Rapids is,” he said. “I think people are vastly unaware how wonderfully diverse the community is.”

The full line-up of events, with additional information on where and when groups meet, is located on the Kaufman Interfaith Institute website. So far, there are seven affinity groups, with four others coming soon. The institute is asking for input to gauge public interest in the upcoming events.

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