Interfaith dialogue melds religion, politics

Involvement in Christianity and politics should go hand in hand, according to speakers at "Crosswalks," an interfaith, inter-perspective dialogue held Monday night in AMU Ballroom B.

At the beginning of the dialogue, University Ministry Manresa intern Michael Smith said he and co-organizer Ali Althaus, a College of Arts & Sciences junior, got the idea for staging a dialogue between people of different faiths, ideologies and perspectives by witnessing the division that occurred after the Nov. 2 presidential election.

Smith said he sought a way to "engage in discussion on political issues in a safe, respectful way" when creating "Crosswalks."

"The genesis of this event was a few students' and my desire to cultivate a culture and practice of respectful dialogue on campus on political and religious matters, particularly in light of the controversial manner in which politics and religion were intertwined in the church during the presidential election," Smith said.

Ralph Del Colle, associate professor of theology, addressed the group on the importance of mingling religious faith and politics.

Involvement in politics, Del Colle said, is an important dimension of a religious person, since both politics and religion care about the welfare of others.

"We take seriously the fulfillment of the human at political and social levels," Del Colle said. "That's what government is there for."

"There should be no question that Christians should and ought to participate in the social, cultural and political aspects of their respective communities," Del Colle said. "The following of Christ in the social and political forms is a form of cruciform service to the Christ," he continued, adding that Christians should serve and, if necessary, suffer for what is right.

Del Colle said that the "real, imperfect communion of Christians" should and could become a "full, visible unity" through interfaith dialogue.

About 35 students, most of them members of some sort of campus religious organization, attended the event.

Participants were organized into groups of six and engaged in a role-playing activity in which each person was assigned the task of presenting the argument of an individual affected by homelessness.

The characters were: homeless person, Marquette student, police officer, downtown merchant, city council member and suburban resident.

Participants were each given 35 seconds to explain what they thought were their characters' view on homelessness. After the 35 seconds were up, each person then took the role of the person to the left of him or her. On the last round, players were given 45 seconds to try to expound on the views that others had expressed while playing their role before them.

"Crosswalks," which Smith said might become a series, was sponsored by 13 different religious and social groups on campus, including both College Democrats and College Republicans.

This article appeared in The Marquette Tribune on Feb. 1 2005.