A University student plans to depict the role women play in various religious traditions at this year’s Festival of Nations. Junior Andrew Mailen has begun work collecting information about the various faith traditions celebrated on campus, particularly by female students.
The project is still in its early stages, but once Mailen collects data on the specific religious backgrounds represented by University students, he plans to conduct extensive research on women’s positions, treatment and portrayal in accordance with each tradition. The exhibit will highlight doctrinal, cultural and historical treatment of women with a focus on sacred texts. Mailen hopes to create an “unbiased comparison” of the various religions with the hope of providing insight into the lifestyles and struggles of women in various cultures.
“I want to make campus more welcoming, but I also want to explain how different cultures treat women in an interesting and accessible way,” Mailen said.
A series of events spanning several months inspired this project. Mailen attended last November’s Ignatian Family Teach-in for Justice, a conference in Washington, D.C., that highlights social justice issues. At the conference, a woman spoke about how living within a Muslim college dormitory strengthened her faith and social consciousness. This speech sparked his interest in religious coexistence and the importance of the world’s religious plurality. When he returned to campus, he became involved in creating an interfaith research booklet with Paul Porter, Ph. D., of the Office of Multicultural Affairs and a local rabbi. This booklet was created for the use of the Scranton community to raise awareness and understanding of different faiths and holidays celebrated in the city.
Following this endeavor, Mailen studied abroad in South Africa, where he worked at an interfaith organization that dealt with domestic violence. This organization worked closely with religious leaders to engage in discussions about women’s rights and treatment.
Upon returning to The University, Mailen further developed his interest in interfaith relations as well as women’s rights by taking a position at the Jane Kopas Women’s Center. Here he learned about the Festival of Nations, an event that annually features a table representing The Women’s Center. He saw an opportunity to apply the knowledge he had gained over the previous year as well as his dual interest in different religious traditions and women’s rights.
“Maybe I can combine [these interests] and see where it takes me,” Mailen said.
The Festival of Nations will occur May 3 this year, but to begin research for his exhibit, Mailen wishes to obtain a clear, accurate understanding of the religious traditions practiced on campus. Students, faculty and staff can make sure their religious background is included in the project by participating in an anonymous online survey. Those interested in learning more about the project or helping with it can contact Mailen at firstname.lastname@example.org, the Women’s Center at email@example.com or by visiting the Women’s Center at 205F in the DeNaples Center during Mailen’s office hours: Mondays from 10 – 11 a.m., Wednesdays from 1:30 – 2:30 p.m. or Fridays from 10 – 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 – 2:30 p.m. The survey is located online at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/LMXRNVN.
The goal of the exhibit is to make the campus a welcoming and educated environment for men and women of all religious backgrounds and develop an attitude of solidarity.
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