Our global reality of instantaneous international communication, exchange and interaction means on any given day we encounter an incredible range of human experiences at a breakneck pace. As Santa Clara University works to shape and support students who can serve and thrive in this new reality, it is increasingly important to cultivate in them skills of thoughtful engagement and reflective dialogue with people of different worldviews. In addition, it is crucial that we continually think in new and creative ways about how to move past mistrust, suspicion, fear and antagonism based on religion.
The Statement of Purpose of Santa Clara University declares not only the university’s affirmation of its Catholic identity, but “respect for other religious and philosophical traditions, promotion of dialogue between faith and contemporary culture, opposition to narrow indoctrination or proselytizing, and the opportunity for worship and the deepening of religious belief.” The university is thus dedicated to “a community enriched by men and women of diverse backgrounds, respectful of difference and enlivened by open dialogue, caring and just toward others, and committed to broad participation in achieving the common good.” It is within these affirmations that the SCU Interfaith Council sees its mission for the university community.
The intention of the SCUIC is to provide opportunities for people of different faith traditions – as well as different expressions of the same faith – to safely and freely express their convictions in ways that honor their systems of belief while inviting others to enter into discussion about points of commonality and divergence. Our interest is not to provide a merely superficial overview of world religions, nor is our desire to downplay distinctions among religions in order to placate our discomfort with those who differ from us. Instead, we encourage individuals to take seriously their own faith and traditions and to bring their beliefs to the conversation, while being open and sensitive to the varied ways in which others express their beliefs. Our hope is that through dialogue that honors openness, hospitality, accuracy, critical listening and thinking, vulnerability, and patience, we might come to new understanding of and care for one another that transcends our differences and strengthens our common work in service of others.