Yesterday we visited the Ginsberg Center at the University of Michigan. The Ginsberg Center is focused on community service and learning in particular interfaith action/dialogue. As part of their dedication to interfaith action, the center is active in bringing together various faith based groups on campus as well as students in order to discuss topics and misconceptions that in any other case would never be discussed. The interesting thing we learned about the University of Michigan is that as a public university the school does not have a religion major or religious study department. Classes in religious subjects are still taught but they are taught under a specific area study such as Asian studies. Students of all faiths sitting down together and discussing religion, bringing into question all the misconceptions people have of one another, and educating others about their religion is to me one of the principle ways that we will finally begin to break down the stereotypes that are continuously placed on various religions. As we travel along with Indonesian students we have learned more and more about the misconceptions both sides have about one another and where these misconceptions stem from. As we live and study with the Indonesian students, it is interesting to go back and forth and discuss the misconceptions that exist among people in our respective society. It is through this type of interaction that both American and Indonesian groups have developed a greater understanding and respect for the diversity in religion and culture that exist in society.
Today we had the opportunity to visit the museum of African American History in Detroit. The struggle of African Americans beginning with slavery to today’s issues with racism and stereotypes has been an intricate part of the development of American History. As we entered the museum and began learning about the history of African Americans starting in the continent of Africa and slavery, I began to think of the idea of multiculturalism and religion in the United States and how it has developed. Although in Indonesia we observed that the problem with multiculturalism, religion, and pluralism stems more from a religious aspect, in the United States most stem from racial tension that exists. Although we accept and recognize all types and forms of religion there is still a large issue of race and how it is dealt with today. For the Indonesian students learning about the history of African Americans gave them the other side of “democracy” in our country and the price and struggle for freedom that some of our citizens had to pay. They might have found it shocking for America a country that prides itself on “liberty and justice” for all to have such a dark history but I think it was key in understanding the overall idea of democracy and its development in the United states.
Until next time =)