Office of Multicultural Affairs to hold annual heritage celebration

Trips to religious sites planned to showcase culture, diversity

By Drew Schertzer | 1/22/18 2:30am


Students at Grand Valley State University come from all different backgrounds, and initiatives like the Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Celebration are aimed to offer insight into what other cultures and people are like. The celebration offers students the opportunity to learn about new perspectives, which in turn creates an environment that promotes learning and respect at GVSU. 

“Religious diversity is important, and we hope students will have a basic understanding of others’ faith backgrounds,” said Kevin McIntosh, Campus Interfaith Resources coordinator. “During and after (attending) Grand Valley, students should know what a mosque is and basic principles of other religions.” 

The sacred sites tour will kick off the celebration. Students can visit the mosque Masjid At-Tawheed in Grand Rapids on Friday, Jan. 26, from 11 a.m. to  3 p.m. They also can visit the West Michigan Hindu Temple on Friday, Feb. 2, from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Lauryn Nett, graduate assistant at Campus Interfaith Resources, explained the reason behind the mosque and temple visits. 

“Students have the opportunity to go somewhere they don’t go on a daily basis,” Nett said. “Getting out of your comfort zone allows you to learn new things.”

Nett believes that individuals have to leave their comfort zones to learn about new cultures and that this lets them see where they have similarities and differences. She said when people have differences, it isn’t about who is right and who is wrong. She added that just because two people don’t have the same set of beliefs doesn’t mean they can’t have a good friendship. 

“The idea is bringing people together, not to convince the other side that you are right,” McIntosh said. “When you do events like these to learn about each other, you get to see a shared humanity, which leads to dialogue.” 

McIntosh said having a campus environment where civil discourse is promoted is key. Even if you agree with only 80 percent of someone’s beliefs, you can still have respect for each other, McIntosh said. He pointed out that you can’t find out what you have in common with someone if you don’t talk to them in the first place.

The Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Celebration will go from the first mosque visit on Friday, Jan. 26, until a discussion about "the spirit of the philosophy of cancer" on Thursday, March 22. There will be many events during the months of February and March to talk about everything from acceptance to an Asian New Year Festival. 

In Asia and the Pacific Islands, there is a wide variety of religions, such as Islam, Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and more. Therefore, a lot of events will be focused on visiting sacred places for these religions. 

For a full list of events and times, visit www.gvsu.edu/oma/asian-american-pacific-islander-heritage-celebration-21.htm.

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