Amid racial and ethnic diversity talks, NYU is also making strides in discussing religious diversity, an often overlooked identity during these conversations.
Inside the Global Center for Academic and Spiritual Life, students can find more than 75 different religious and spiritual clubs, in addition to various resources around campus: 70 chaplains, three major religious centers, a spirituality floor in the Gramercy Green residence hall and Faith Zone trainings.
But while many religions are represented at the university, Christian Humanist Chaplain Natalie Perkins said that she hopes the administration takes time to examine the intersection between faith and social justice in order to continue diversifying faith leaders.
“There aren’t a lot of black chaplains — I think there are three of us now — which is huge,” Perkins said. “Otherwise I feel like the program is very involved in diversity. There is pretty equal weighting around gender, a pretty good showing around LGBTQ representation and allies and then some other racial categories that are represented pretty well. They’re really coming around to a more egalitarian space, to make sure all the students have somewhere they can be, to discuss their own spiritual journeys.”
Perkins said that churches often fall into the nation’s pattern of struggling with and outright ignoring the process of incorporating racial diversity into congregations, and she is glad to see that the university is taking steps toward implementing a well-rounded staff.
Executive Director of the Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life and Jewish Chaplain Rabbi Yehuda Sarna said that especially in today’s society, where students encounter more and more cultures, it is important for them to appreciate religious diversity.
“It is critical for the success of the 21st century [for students] to develop the capacity to be deeply rooted in their identity but open to difference,” Sarna said. “There is nowhere better to learn this than college, arguably the most diverse environment you will ever live in, and the most formative time.”
NYU Humanist Chaplain Anne Klaeysen said that she wished incoming freshmen were required to participate in Faith Zone training so that they could have an opportunity to understand other religions and bond with students from all over the world through their faiths. At GCASL, Klaeysen said these religions are not just simply just offered, they also coexist.
“I love multifaith and interfaith environments,” Klaeysen said. “Sometimes I have more in common with my fellow chaplains from different faiths… The fact that we’re in open dialogue and so inclusive and so interested in one another, makes it a very good atmosphere and very good environment.”
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