Faith Communities Gather to Discuss Engagement and Allyship

When world events leave us asking what we can do, we keep doing what we do: teach, advocate for social justice, and continue interfaith engagement. University President Morton Schapiro shared this message of moving forward in darkness through engagement to communities gathering at Fall Faith Fest.

“Sometimes you go to your house of worship for community, for inspiration, for a sense of humility,” said President Schapiro, reflecting on his experiences at Shabbat.

President Schapiro expressed his feeling of belonging in Northwestern’s faith community as an observant Jew, and encouraged the audience not to retreat into themselves, but to act and serve the most vulnerable. The mission of service rang true throughout the event, where student leaders were recognized with community engagement awards.

Tahera Ahmad, Associate Chaplain and Director of Interfaith Engagement, presented students with bonsai trees to recognize their work.

Like the resilient bonsai trees and their ancient seeds, Ahmad described the students’ work as “deeply rooted in traditions and philosophical pathways.”

Ahmad presented President Schapiro with the final bonsai tree for his allyship.

Student Recipients of the Fall Faith Fest Community Engagement Award

  • Megan Behnke, University Christian Ministry
  • Justine Hung, South Asian Student Alliance
  • Jessica Hoffen, Hillel
  • Jo Ann Efobi, Sheil and Catholic Scholars Program
  • Rimsha Ganatra, Muslim Cultural Students Organization

Weinberg alumni Michael Knudsen continued the message of social engagement by discussing how he joined advocacy at Standing Rock to prevent the continuation of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Michael explained how activism and allyship with faith communities came together in this work to standing up to protect sacred spaces. After sharing a short documentary, Michael video called Linda Black Elk, a Standing Rock reservation resident and professor at Sitting Bull College, who explained how native people were not only fighting to protect sacred land and water, but are also continuing to resist oppressive federal forces.