Interfaith Project Concludes on Positive Note
By Jennifer Willis
Ten weeks ago, junior Ty Kieser and senior Micah Briscoe began leading a discussion group at the Chris Ridge Senior Living Community in Phoenix, in partnership with Jewish Family and Children’s Services.
Titled “Building Bridges Between Faiths,” the discussions were aimed at exploring Buddhism and its similarities with Judaism and Christianity.
Kieser and Briscoe stepped into the project not quite sure what they were getting themselves into. But after completing the final session in the series on Wednesday, they found that they may have learned more from the people they were teaching than their students learned from them.
“I have learned a lot from this experience,” Kieser told the group before starting his portion of the discussion. “I hope that you guys have learned at least a tenth from us of what I have learned from you.”
The feeling seemed to be mutual. As participants left, they thanked the boys, with some lingering to get in some final one-on-one discussion.
“This is the last one,” one of the more vocal participants said as she made her way out the door. “It’s kind of sad.”
The sessions, which were deemed a success by Assistant Dean Anna Faith Smith of the College of Arts and Sciences, ended with a summary of what had been discussed over the nine previous weeks, emphasizing the similarities and differences among the three religions on topics such as the afterlife, the purpose of life and creation.
While there were moments when the conversation got slightly off topic, Kieser and Briscoe were able to remain open-minded and diffuse situations before they got out of hand, which impressed Smith.
“Any time religion is discussed in a group of people from different backgrounds, you have challenges,” Smith said. “The boys were able to keep the audience engaged and on track. I’m so proud of them.”
Kieser and Briscoe found the class to be a great experience.
“It was such a great opportunity to become acquainted with other religions,” Briscoe said. “The most interesting part was we had people from all three religions in the group. We were able to get everyone’s perspective, and I feel like it was extremely helpful not only for us but for everyone.”
Said Kieser: “I feel like there’s a big disconnect between our generation and theirs. It’s great to be able to come together like this and hear the different perspectives based on different life experiences. I loved hearing what they had to say.”
While this particular series has ended, it was such a success that Smith met with Jewish Family and Children’s Services afterward to discuss the possibility of future series with different topics.
Reach Jennifer Willis at 639.7383 or Jennifer.firstname.lastname@example.org.