Yesterday, we hiked up two floors to check out the interfaith “prayer room” that the Office of Student Life arranged on the second floor of the Kirkhof Center. Overlooking the busy hall outside the LGBT Resource Center and within earshot of the whirring blenders from the Lobby Shop, the cubicle — yes, cubicle — was, at that time, hosting two students with books and munchies spread out across the long conference table in its center.
Not exactly the atmosphere we were expecting of a spiritual safe haven.
And when we saw this, we not only understood but supported Grand Valley State University’s Student Senate, which passed a resolution this week to create a more formal, on-campus prayer space for students who are not Judeo-Christian.
The current space is less than adequate and provides little room for religious practices, communal worship or any form of prayer or meditation. It has to be difficult to reach a level of inner peace while listening to someone’s smoothie blending down the hall or a game-based club interacting directly below. And it can’t be easy adjusting into a comfortable and prayerful state with little room to move around the rigid table in the center. And it’s probably pretty awkward having to ask peers to pack up their study materials and leave to accommodate religious activity.
We would like to commend Student Senate for recognizing the unfilled need for a more appropriate spiritual space to give those in the religious minority the resources they need to feel comfortable and welcome at GVSU.
According to the Association of Religion Data Archives from 2010, less than 1.5 percent of the population of Ottawa County that identify with any religious congregation identify as “other,” which includes Hinduism, Buddhism, the Bahá’í faith and many more. Though the percentage of the population that practices a religion other than a Judeo-Christian faith is small, they should not be ignored.
Diversity is stressed in the GVSU community, but some minority groups are under-supported. Though some minority issues are emphasized in current events and on campus, some students tend to be forgotten. Religious minorities are often seen to be one of these groups since they don’t receive a lot of attention in national news or other media that people keep up-to-date with the goings-on of the world.
For students who are religious, their beliefs and faith are usually the most important part of their life and must be internally nurtured. For students not of Judeo-Christian faith, if their religion is indeed the most important part of their life, they need space on campus where they can freely, comfortably and openly practice their beliefs with others of the same faith in order to accomplish this nurturing.
For Student Senate to recognize the needs of its minority constituents and work to accommodate them is encouraging. We want to express our strong support of the senate’s resolution, and we hope that the Board of Trustees will improve the spiritual conditions of GVSU’s campus community.