OU establishes Center for Religious Understanding, encouraging interfaith dialogue

The Center for Religious Understanding (CRU) has only been around since last semester but has already sparked the interest of students and faculty.

With every intention to bring a new platform to the university, the center has put on multiple eye-opening and thought-provoking events surrounding various religious topics. The program has brought in amazing speakers such as Buddhist monk and alumnus Kevin Hickey. He talked about spiritual care and what it’s like to be a Buddhist monk serving as a chaplain at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak.

The center highlights some of the most important issues of understanding the different religions of the world and how to deal with their differences and similarities.

Alan Epstein is the director of the Religious Studies program and also a professor of political science courses since 1997. Epstein lectures on topics that provoke stimulation of the mind and helps to transform the classes into a worthy 14 weeks of learning and exploring.

Epstein spoke about the center, which is the new addition to the religious studies program that has already brought a diverse group of students together to learn and expand their way of thinking.

The center is brought to you by Epstein and other contributors to the religious studies program, which include three sub directors.

“We want to serve as a meeting place where people come together to talk about big issues that have a religious connection,” Epstein said.

Another mission of the Center for Religious Understanding is to engage students in talks that explore different faith traditions, with the hope to bring a clear understanding to the table in order for people to comprehend these traditions and philosophies without feeling overwhelmed or confused.

“We just look at religion through a critical lens,” Epstein said.

He also pointed out that students sometimes worry that if they take a religious studies class they will have to adopt a new religion or abandon their own, which he made very clear is not the case.

“CRU provides a forum for students to learn about the complex and ongoing conversation between religious traditions, persons and the communities they inhabit, not just on the big questions of existence, but about what friendships with each other and the world we share ought to look like,” said Tristin Hassell, special lecturer in the Religious Studies program, which has been at OU for six years.

Hassell contributes to the center’s events and workshops and finds the program to be just what is needed around campus.

Students, alumni, faculty and those just willing to learn are welcome to attend events that are hosted by the center. The center also provides grant-writing workshops, guidance for understanding and developing research projects and serving as a platform to work with donors, community leaders and many religious groups around the world.

If you would like to attend CRU events or gather more knowledge on the program at Oakland University, contact Epstein at (248) 370-2154 or visit thewebsite.


The mission of the Center for Religious Understanding Program:

Collect and organize resources for the interdisciplinary exploration of religion in society at Oakland University

Investigate religious identity and its role in society through inquiry in the humanities, social and natural sciences, and engagement with the creative and performing arts

Facilitate dialogue around religion and public issues by establishing associations between CRU and its fellow academic units at Oakland, area collaborators, and individual religious communities

Expand religious literacy both on the Oakland University campus and in the wider community.

Source: http://wwwp.oakland.edu/religiousstudies/center-for-religious-understanding/