Thursday, November 7, 2013

Shared Experiences: the Great Connector

Blog post by Michaela Wolf, Project Interfaith's Program Intern

I am excited to intern at Project Interfaith. I was impressed by the organization when I learned about it through Clarkson College. Project Interfaith aims to reach all people regardless of their beliefs. Project Interfaith serves those who believe in one God, no God, multiple God forms or are unsure about their spiritual or religious identity. Project Interfaith serves people by hosting interfaith programs and providing resources so that people may engage outside of these programs in dialogue that promotes respect, tolerance and understanding among people of different beliefs. I think working to increase these attributes of our social world is critical. I like that Project Interfaith is totally inclusive because our world is totally diverse, and so requires this approach. 
I care that people are able to live and express themselves freely. The work of Project Interfaith is important to me because I see that it creates and strengthens safe spaces for such expression. In a book once I read a passage where a lawyer described the function of laws as clearing a path for people to walk through the woods. He described laws as creating space for justice in society. I believe the work of Project Interfaith is similar in function. Work that promotes tolerance, understanding and respect is very important to the world now and forever. People are and always will be different and need to understand and respect one another to go forward in their lives and this space that is shared.

Throughout history and in current global events, there are far too many realities where individuals’ lives are limited in a number of ways and even ended by discriminatory policies, violence or prejudice based on their beliefs. These limits exist when people’s lives are organized by direct discrimination and also when they change how individuals consider themselves and their own potential and worth. Volunteering for Memory of a Nation, I read witness accounts of individual’s lives during times in which totalitarian governments ruled. The extreme measures taken both by regimes, to usurp individual rights, and by people, to protect their own freedoms, made me see more clearly the integral role of protecting individual freedoms, like freedom to worship.  Martin Luther King Jr. famously said, “I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be.”He was speaking about the inescapable interconnectedness of humanity that makes the work for justice so critical. By working for tolerance and understanding Project Interfaith expands areas of security in which people are able to grow, realize, and express themselves freely.

Running, being in nature, drawing, writing and listening to stories in the many ways they are told are some ways that I feel connected spiritually. These are parts of my life I really value and I feel richer by them. I like listening to musicians talk about music and what it is like for them to make it. I think there are shared experiences that lie underneath us all and that all people are connected in spirituality. I think religion and spirituality must be protected in society so that people can live to be free. I care that people can have healthy lives and grow to self actualize. In hearing stories others tell in their music, words and art I learn about diversity in the world and experience and also about who I am. I was impressed by Ravel Unravel and to the mosaic approach it takes in describing Omaha’s religious and spiritual community because it takes experiences and beliefs of individuals and presents them as a part of the whole that they are. The history and identity of the many religious and spiritual traditions in the world is as deep as the seas. I think there is a lot of beauty and truth to be discovered there and that the exploration makes our communities stronger.

Michaela Wolf is the program intern at Project Interfaith. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies with a focus in Biology and a minor in Sociology from the University of Nebraska- Lincoln. She currently attends Clarkson College, pursuing a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing. Her interests include reading, writing, running, the outdoors and art.

She is excited to work for Project Interfaith because she thinks strong communities need the understanding and respect the Project Interfaith works to achieve.  When she volunteered for the Memory of a Nation project, a compilation of interviews with witnesses to totalitarian government in Europe, she came to see in a different way how each individual has a unique experience in the world that is vital for them to express in some way. Respect and tolerance provide the space for such an opportunity. She does not know what job she would like to hold in her life exactly, but knows that she would like to advocate in some way for people to have the freedom to share their stories, whatever they may be. She is a reader for Radio Talking Book Services. Reading has been a life- long love; she loves hearing stories whether by picture, novel, song, newspaper or any other form telling.

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