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Winterfaith lunches bring different faiths together to share several meals

Freshman Loise Ndegwa is the embodiment of Elon University’s emphasis on global students. Originally from Kenya, Ndegwa has lived in Paris, Tanzania and Israel, with her Baha’i faith following her every step of the journey.

Ndegwa is scheduled to speak during one of the Truitt Center’s Winterfaith Lunch-N-Learn events during Winter Term.

Each Wednesday, the Truitt Center, working with Elon Community Church, hosts up to 15-20 students and 10-15 community members in the church to eat and discuss world religions.

“The  presenter is actually asked to speak around the tradition of food (within their faith discipline),” said Chet Denlinger, chaplaincy resident of the Truitt Center.

The meal is vegetarian soup and salad, in order to respect dietary restraints. After the meal, the presenter spends a few minutes highlighting his or her beliefs followed by question and answer time.

In the past few years, religions from Catholicism to Zen Buddhism have been discussed, as well as different Protestant sects, such as Hinduism, Judaism and Islam. This year, the presenters have been from the Zen Buddhism, Unitarian Universalist and Baha’i practices.

Ndegwa was raised in the Baha’i tradition, a religion that emphasizes the oneness of all world faiths.

“(Baha’is) believe that all religions are from God, and that we all believe in the one God,” Ndegwa said. “Even if we have different names, it’s just different names we all still worship the one God.”

Ndegwa’s talk was canceled because of the snow last Monday, but the Truitt Center is in the process of rescheduling it.

It’s part of the Truitt Center’s mission statement to bridge the gap that may exist between faiths, and that means drawing awareness that, as Baha’is believe, many religions are similar in core tenets.

“Awareness and under-standing draw us closer together as human beings,” Denlinger said. “They kind of allow us to see the humanity in each other through spirituality.”

Denlinger said the next step is cooperation. “You see the bumper stickers that say ‘Coexist.’

We’re looking at ways to kind of take that next step from coexisting with each other to cooperating – working together for the common good.”

The cooperation comes in the form of peace across religious and nonreligious lines, Denlinger said. It can also help believers in different religions become more secure in their own faiths.

“When you share about your beliefs, you start to understand your religion because you see the similarities and differences,” Ndegwa said. “But it’s much better to focus on the similarities.”

Denlinger was in agreement. “Surprisingly, or not so surprisingly, we’re a lot more alike than we are different. The desire of religion and of spirituality is motivated by something that is very common and alike in all of us.”

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