Virginia International University recently launched a diversity luncheon series dedicated to celebrating different cultures, faiths, and beliefs. The first event took place on July 20, 2015 and was focused on the Muslim Ramadan festival.
All around the world, Muslims recently observed Ramadan, a month-long religious fast lasting from dawn til dusk which serves as an emblem of sacrifice made to God and also fosters empathy for those living in poverty and with the constant feeling of starvation. The month of fasting is followed by a day of celebration called Eid. VIU students and staff gathered at the Village Drive campus to share food and their Ramadan experiences.
Jena Luedtke, Director of Interfaith and Intercultural Affairs of Rumi Forum was the event’s keynote speaker. Ms. Luedtke explained the meaning of Ramadan and the Eid celebrations across the globe; she also explained the beliefs and conceptions behind Islam as a religion. The month of Ramadan, Ms. Luedtke told attendees, is a way to renew one’s faith in God and also feel compassionate to those who are experiencing poverty.
VIU students had the chance to talk about their first Ramadan experiences in the US. They said that the hardest part was being away from their homes and families. The students used this time to share food and reach out to their neighbors, friends, and other VIU students who have different faiths and cultures.
Dr. Klara Bilgin, Dean of the School of Public & International Affairs at VIU, hosted the luncheon and also spoke on the importance of understanding different cultures and religious faiths and how they shape our community in the US and worldwide. She believes that more diversity events like the luncheon series will have a positive impact and bridge a common understanding and empathy toward all cultures and religions.