‘Many Faiths One Humanity’ participants to share videos

April 29, 2011

‘Many Faiths One Humanity’ participants to share contemplative videos April 25

April 21, 2011

In March, a diverse group of 11 Syracuse University students—Buddhist, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Pagan, undecided and hyphenated combinations thereof—traveled to London for “Many Faiths, One Humanity,” an interfaith study experience and experiment in religious pluralism.

Interlaced among the experiences were opportunities to simply “be,” as the students and other participants walked through London and took video of the world unfolding from moment to moment as part of a contemplative video art project.

The public is invited to view and meditate upon these video recordings of everyday moments on Monday, April 25, at 8 p.m. in Hendricks’ main chapel. The event is free and open to the public. A talk-back session with students will follow the screening.

The students traveled to London March 13-22. Tiffany Steinwert, dean of Hendricks Chapel, organized and led the group to sites of religious and cultural significance throughout the city. Accompanying the group was Jikyo Bonnie Shoultz, Buddhist chaplain; Mary Hudson, Pagan chaplain; Asim Mohammed, Muslim mentor; Ginny Yerdon, Hendricks Chapel’s special events coordinator; and Anne Beffel, Hendricks Chapel’s artist-in-residence. Students shared their experiences through writings and photos at onehumanity.syr.edu.

During the 10 days in London, the students experienced both history and contemporary culture. They climbed hills historically revered by Pagans; traveled from mosques, to churches to synagogues; visited memorials to the Holocaust, the downing of the Berlin wall, and the Blitz; and paused to notice peaceful emptiness at the Buddhist society.

Their experience raised questions such as “Do I look up when we pray at the mosque?” “What did St. Patrick and the Pagans share in common?” and “What do we do if one of us is stopped by a security officer in the airport, and why is it always a student of Islamic faith?”

Working alongside Beffel, the students used video and photography to discover different perspectives through the simple act of slowing down. They made images of daily scenes as they traveled, ranging from those that inspire awe to those that compel us to transform our world. The images allowed students to share their perspectives with one another and those they met as they traveled in London. The videos have been a springboard for fostering discussion, both in London and now in Syracuse.

“The contemplative video project allowed students to cultivate new ways of seeing the world,” says Steinwert. “Making the videos required them to slow down and see the world from a different perspective. This act of intentionally seeking new perspectives opened them to deeper dialogue on issues of faith.”

“Our evening screenings enable the participants to understand the perspective of the individual videographer as well as those in the audience who bring their own stories and interpretations to these works of art,” says Beffel. “Worldviews and value systems become evident through image and conversation. This provides fertile ground for attentiveness, rapport and even empathy. This combination of exchanges holds potential for building peaceful and compassionate communications.”

This project was generously supported by Chancellor Nancy Cantor, Hendricks Chapel, the Syracuse University Division of Student Affairs, The Hendricks Chapel Wellness Initiative Fund, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, Maxwell School Program for the Advancement of Research on Conflict and Collaboration (PARCC), the Zen Center of Syracuse Hoen-ji and the Center for Contemplative Mind In Society with support from the Fetzer Institute. Additional support came from the Syracuse University College of Visual and Performing Arts and the School of Information Studies. For more information about the screening, contact Hendricks Chapel at 443-2902.