It’s summer time. You know what that means: Going to the beach, reading books, late nights, the farmers market and the new and improved RLC blog! You can expect a new blog entry each Thursday, also known as #blogdayThursday. Each week you’ll get to hear from a different Fall 2014 RLC Intern, so get pumped!
To start us off, I figured I could talk to you a little bit about what I learned over May term and how I’m going to apply it to my summer in the chapel and my last semester as RLC President.
This May term I went to Senegal, on the West coast of Africa, for two weeks to work with the Peace Corps and learn about a different culture. It was my first time out of the United States and it was definitely an amazing and enlightening experience. I wish I could talk about each and every thing that happened over the course of those two weeks, but that would make for one really long entry. Instead I’ll stick with a one specific moment that has stood out since my return.
During our week in home-stays, my classmates and I took a morning off from doing service and took a trip to a nearby island called Shell Island. It was a beautiful place, every inch of which was covered in white shells that crunched beneath your feet. We took a canoe tour of the various sites in the area, with an English speaking guide explaining their significance. One of which was an island devoted solely to being a cemetery. I looked out at the island, observing large baobab trees, white crosses and wooden plaques. You see, this was a very special cemetery which held people of both Christian and Muslim faith traditions side by side with no discrimination or judgment. People from Shell Island are not allowed to reserve a burial plot to be buried with family. Rather, each person is buried as they come, no preferences or priority shown.
Reflecting back on my trip, this was an extremely poignant and beautiful moment that represents one way that Senegal, despite their status as a developing country, has advanced well beyond America. As a country that is over 90% Muslim, it would be easy for one popular faith tradition to overshadow and discriminate against another. Yet this is not the case in Senegal. Muslims and Catholics live and work together in perfect harmony. In fact, in my host family I had a Catholic grandmother and a Muslim mother. Their love for one another does not rely on corresponding religious beliefs or opinions, but on a mutual understanding that each person is worthy of respect and is unique in his or her own right.
The motto of the entire country of Senegal is “One people, one goal, one faith”. This motto came to life for me at the Shell Island cemetery and I hope to carry that image with me throughout the rest of my time at Simpson College and beyond. In recent years the Religious Life Community has been striving towards greater religious understanding, dialogue and tolerance and I hope that I can be a catalyst for change as we continue down that path. This summer I have the opportunity to travel to New York City with five other Simpson students to attend the Interfaith Youth Institute and learn more about interfaith dialogue. I am blessed to have this opportunity and I know that when we return from New York my fellow interns and I will be ready to help Simpson College become even more interfaith minded.
If you have any questions about RLC or want to sit down with me and a cup of coffee to discuss in even more detail my amazing trip to Senegal, I would love nothing more than if you’d email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I hope that you’re having a fabulous summer and that you stay tuned for more blog posts by my marvelous fellow interns!
Tricia Kay Ingram