A new university interfaith prayer room is in the process of being created. An interfaith prayer room is a space intended for students of every religion to be able to worship at their leisure and interact with students of other religious beliefs.
The university previously had an interfaith prayer room, but it was removed to make space available for a faculty member’s office. First-year international studies major Bidya Kharel believes the university should bring an interfaith prayer room back to campus and is currently writing a bill for Student Government to execute her vision.
Kharel, who has practiced the Hindu religion since she was born, believes that an interfaith prayer room is not only a space to practice religion, but also a place to “calm your nerves.”
Kharel said, “I just realized that I didn’t see [an interfaith prayer room], and back in my high school, there was one, and a lot of students would utilize it, and I didn’t see that here. . . [so] I inquired about it, and I found out that there was one [in the past], and I was like, ‘We should remake it.’”
While the university is a Lutheran campus with a seminary, there are several religions present on campus. Students can freely practice their religions either on their own or with student organizations such as CRU (a Christian organization), Embrace Ministries (a Reconciling in Christ organization and the University-sponsored campus ministry), the Catholic Student Organization (CSO), the Muslim Student Association (MSA) and more.
“I really think it doesn’t matter what religion you practice,” said Kharel. “If you practice a religion and if you’re that committed to it, you’ll find others on campus who are as committed as you, and you can just create a little community and get more people, make more people aware.”
Kharel also mentioned that these were the effects she saw from her high school’s interfaith prayer room.
“A prayer room is kind of like a safe space. . . My vision of the prayer room was that we’ll have something like mats, and probably a sofa, and a fridge or something. . . [and] people can stay there if they’re feeling overwhelmed and be in the presence of God. They can think religiously inside of the room and unwind.”
Although there are several organizations that revolve around all types of religions, one might think that there still could be some issues that arise given that the university is a Lutheran-based campus, but Kharel thinks otherwise.
“I don’t think students. . . would [give] that bad of a reaction because I know that even though it is a Lutheran campus, we’re not really affiliated with the Church itself, so I don’t think it will be that bad. Hopefully not,” she said.
Kharel feels the marketing of the room is a bigger issue than student conflicts. “I think one big issue is making people more aware of the space. Once it’s created, I feel like it will be difficult to make students aware, like ‘Hey, you guys have this now. Come inside and take advantage of it.’”
Kharel has written a rough draft of the bill, but it has not passed yet. She speculates the interfaith prayer room will be created in around three months.