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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Sunday, May 19, 2024

Tufts receives $30,000 grant from Interfaith America to promote religious pluralism

The grant will support initiatives to encourage more interfaith dialogue on campus.

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Goddard Chapel is pictured on Sept. 29, 2022.

Tufts recently received the Advancing Religious Pluralism grant from Interfaith America, a nonprofit organization that promotes religious diversity across leaders and institutions nationwide. Tufts will use the $30,000 grant to create more opportunities for interfaith dialogue and civic learning among undergraduate students.  

The grant, funded by the Templeton Religious Trust, is offered to colleges and universities to help them strengthen their interfaith institutions and advance religious pluralism on campus. Tufts was one of eight grantees selected from a group of over 80 applicants.

Todd Green, director of campus partnerships at Interfaith America, explained what the organization looked for as they reviewed grant applications.

“We really tried to open the door as wide as we could on who could qualify for such grants, to a point,” he said. “Because of the size of the grant, we were looking for institutions that had already started to pave the way [and] started to build an interfaith infrastructure on their campuses … We were also looking for a range of universities, public and private.”

According to Green, Tufts was ultimately selected because of the “compelling vision” that it expressed in its application. Tufts plans to use the funding to strengthen the collaboration between the Tufts University Chaplaincy and the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life. Specifically, the grant will support three major initiatives: organizing service projects for first-year students participating in pre-orientation programs, hosting monthly visits to local religious and cultural sites and offering a new class about religious pluralism in spring 2025.

Nora Bond, associate director for programs at the University Chaplaincy, explained the focus of the class, which is titled Religious Diversity, Interfaith Engagement, and Campus Life.

“The class…will focus on religious and civic diversity on campus by deepening our understanding of religious and philosophical pluralism, equipping students for meaningful and courageous dialogue and civic and interfaith action, responding to the current impact of religious nationalisms in the U.S. that threaten religious pluralism, and combatting forms of religious discrimination, including anti-Muslim bias and antisemitism, Bond wrote in an email to the Daily.

The University Chaplaincy also plans to collaborate with the pre-orientation team, which organizes optional programming for first-year students in the weeks before orientation.

“It’s important to me that what we create with the Pre-Os, which each have their own mission and culture, actually serves them and us, so we are meeting now with Pre-O staff leaders to imagine and create,” Bond wrote.

One Pre-O program that has facilitated interfaith dialogue among first-year students is Conversation, Action, Faith and Education, which is currently on pause for the 2024 Pre-O year. According to junior Ethan Cypress, a past coordinator for CAFE, Tufts is working on expanding CAFE into a school-year initiative that includes the same programming.

“I have heard that this programming has several dialogue workshops for students to voice their concerns and have constructive debates on pressing issues. There might also be field trips like the one I organized in Fall 2024 to Royall house, or the one my Co-coordinator Peri organized to Mt. Hope cemetery, Cypress wrote in an email to the Daily.

Green emphasized the importance of forming interfaith relationships in order to combat discrimination and intolerance.

One of the best ways to reduce levels of prejudice, and in this case aimed at religious communities, is to build and facilitate relationships and collaboration across differences. Relationships are game changers. They move the needle,” Green said.