Diverse clergy urges Augustana University to restore interfaith space

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New Delhi, January 17, 2023: Religious leaders belonging to diverse traditions have urged the Augustana University in Sioux Falls (South Dakota) to urgently restore the campus interfaith space to the same status as it stood before December 30, when it was reportedly discovered as moved.

Greek-Orthodox clergyman in Nevada Father Stephen R. Karcher, distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, renowned Buddhist minister Reverend Matthew T. Fisher, esteemed Jewish rabbi in California-Nevada ElizaBeth Webb Beyer; and Senior United Methodist Pastor Reverend Dawn M. Blundell; in a joint statement in Nevada; said that by reportedly moving the sacred items belonging to diverse religious groups, and without the agreement of all stakeholders involved; out of designated, fully accessible and centrally located interfaith space to a room with selective entry; the Augustana University was blatantly contradicting its own “Core Values” of “Welcoming all faiths”, “Centering on worship”, “Respecting human differences”, “So that all may flourish”.

Karcher, Zed, Fisher, Beyer, Blundell urged Augustana University President Stephanie Herseth Sandlin to formally apologize for reportedly hurting the feelings of various groups of students; and urgently meet the affected and reportedly heartbroken student groups to restore confidence among them.

Augustana University should send their senior executives for training in religious and cultural sensitivity so that they have an understanding of the feelings of students and staff belonging to diverse religions/denominations and non-believers; Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish leaders suggested.

Moreover, Augustana University should have handled the sacred items with due respect and taken all the affected student groups in confidence, instead of reportedly shocking them; Karcher, Zed, Fisher, Beyer, Blundell noted.

Rajan Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, was of the view that the existence of different religions was an evident symbol of God’s generosity and munificence. Augustana University should quest for a unity that hailed diversity.

Augustana University, whose history goes back to 1835, offers over 100 majors-minors-programs, besides nearly a dozen master and doctoral degrees. With over 2,100 students from 37 states and 49 countries, it claims to be “home to students who aspire to become the change-makers and problem-solvers of tomorrow”.

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