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UW Madison: New center seeks to foster religious dialogue on campus

Twelve students. Many religions. One common goal.

A new program on campus called the Center for Religion and Global Citizenry is bringing together students from different beliefs, including Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and secular humanism, to promote inter-religious dialogue at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The center, which had its first meeting Oct. 10, is a co-curricular, non-credit educational opportunity for a selected group of students, who each receive a $750 stipend for their work at the center. The 12 students who were selected from around 30 applicants will meet weekly to discuss a curriculum created by Ulrich Rosenhagen, the center's director.

Rosenhagen, who is also a lecturer in religious studies, says the goal of the new center is for students to have "tough conversations" about religion in a meaningful and respectful way. The core group of students can then bring these interfaith discussions to the larger campus community by organizing events, panels and discussions for the whole campus.

"This scholarship is awesome, but it's only 12 of us," says senior Kyra Fox, who is a member of the center, Jewish and a Unitarian Universalist. "I'm really excited to see what the 12 of us can do beyond this room."

Rosenhagen started the center to fill a "void" on campus. Right now, religion is pushed to "the fringes" of campus, with students rarely talking about religious differences and commonalities, Rosenhagen says. While religion has been a part of campus climate and diversity conversations, Rosenhagen wants to make sure it stays that way.

"We're not only talking about race, we're not only talking about gender or sexual orientation, we're also talking about religion when we're talking about who we are and what we want to become as a community," Rosenhagen says. "Religion is part of our identity, part of who we are."

Before the Center for Religion and Global Citizenry, the UW Lubar Institute for the Study of the Abrahamic Religions was the program that sought to further religious diversity on campus. In June 2016, however, the Lubar Institute closed because of a lack of funding. When Rosenhagen, who was associate director of the Lubar Institute at the time, found out the institute would be closing, he started making plans for a new center.

The summer before the Lubar Institute closed, Rosenhagen proposed a plan for a new center to the university. He was met with ample support from the university and, in July, received a $5,000 grant from the Interfaith Youth Core to launch the center's programs.

While the missions for the Lubar Institute and the Center for Religion and Global Citizenry are aligned, Rosenhagen says the new center will be more focused on student programs, whereas the Lubar Institute tried to serve the larger Madison community as well. Another major difference is that the new center is expanding beyond the Abrahamic religions to include students of eastern religious traditions, as well as atheists, agnostics and humanists.

READ THE FULL STORY: http://news.wisc.edu/new-center-seeks-to-foster-religious-dialogue-on-campus/

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