Elon University sends delegation of nine students and two educators to Interfaith Leadership Summit

The Truitt Center for Religious and Spirtual Life is invested in creating more opportunities for interfaith engagement at Elon.

Elon University sent a delegation of seven students and two educators to Interfaith America’s Interfaith Leadership Summit (ILS), the largest gathering of students and educators with a commitment to American religious pluralism.

Multifaith Interns Alex James, Rachel Curtis, Hasan Khan, Maddy Williams and Morgan Williams; Spirit and Pride interns Jillian Shor and Caden Samuel, and staff members Rev. Julie Tonnesen, Associate University Chaplain, and Luis Garay, Director of the GLC, joined hundreds of other participants dedicated to building relationships and connections across different religions and worldviews.

“This interfaith summit was absolutely the most amazing experience,” said Hasan Khan, a multifaith intern who is also president of the Elon Muslim Society. “From the wonderful opportunities of networking to even more incredible knowledge of leadership skills, the summit enabled me to grow and progress as not only a leader on campus, but a human being as a whole.”

The Truitt Center for Religious and Spiritual Life works to support and engages the Elon community with the wisdom of the world’s religious, spiritual, and ethical traditions.  That work is both encouraging students to deepen their own spiritual identities and growth as well as facilitating engagement across different traditions through multifaith work

For Spirit and Pride Intern Caden Samuel, who returned to ILS for his second year, the learning was more intense, and provided him with opportunities to engage with students doing interfaith work on other campuses.  Samuel plans to bring back ideas for events and programs to Elon and hopes to create more active engagement around interfaith on campus.

The remaining students participated in the beginners track, “A Seat at the Table of Interfaith America,” which provided an introduction to interfaith cooperation, and allowed students to  practice the skills interfaith leadership with other students from across the country.

Multifaith intern Rachel Curtis explains: “It was very inspiring to learn from what other students are doing or hope to do on their campuses and to share in learning about others’ religious traditions.”

But the students not only participated in workshops and heard lectures, they were treated to musical performances and cultural opportunites that framed interfaith work in new and innovative ways.

For Maddy Williams, the musical performances offered at the conference allowed her to see the different manifestations of interfaith in action.  “The Qawwali performance was inspiring and it gave me some ideas as to how different types of art can come together from different worldviews,” shared Williams.

And of course, alongside the students, Tonnesen and Garay also engaged in deep interfaith work on the Educator’s Track.  “The Interfaith Leadership Summit gives me the opportunity to have conversation with educators who are doing similar work at other universities,” said Tonnesen.  “Interfaith work is kind of niche, so to get to be in community with other folks who ‘get it’ is a real gift.”

Relationship building and intercultural competence is a key part of the multifaith work that the Truitt Center interns do, and for Jillian Shor, Alex James and Morgan Williams, the conversations that took place at the Interfaith Leadership Summit were memorable and meaningful and will translate to new initiatives on Elon’s campus.

“The conference was a great place to have difficult conversations with no animosity, but with curiosity,” shared James. “I enjoyed this conference because it helped me become stronger in my faith, seeing all the other people who were strong in theirs. Everyone’s words inspired me.”

Williams and Shor also plan to bring what they learned back to Elon to develop new programs and opportunities for the campus community.

“I was able to share my experiences and listen to others’ stories and in turn, I gained a new sense of motivation,” Shor explained. “I cannot wait to return to campus and turn that motivation into action.”