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The Times-Delphic

The Student News Site of Drake University

The Times-Delphic

The Student News Site of Drake University

The Times-Delphic

Comparison project to host religious connection event open to all

The Comparison Project works with student organizations on campus like Interfaith, a multicultural group for people of all religious or even non-religious people on campus. graphic by Meghan Holloran | photo editor

In Des Moines, a city with more than 800 religious organizations and communities, diversity in faith tradition and culture is prevalent. The Comparison Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to cultivating interfaith literacy and leadership on Drake’s campus and throughout the Des Moines area, offers unique opportunities to engage with neighbors of varying faith traditions.

“It costs very little to learn about another person’s perspective, or even just to have an open ear,” said Alex Phillips, a junior who serves as a graphic design fellow for The Comparison Project.

Phillips is helping coordinate the nonprofit’s Roads to Religion event along with Catalina Samaniego, a junior and financial and strategic planning fellow for the organization.

Open to Drake students and the public, Roads to Religion will take place on Feb. 18 from 3-5 p.m. in Parents Hall in the Olmsted Center. The annual event will involve free food, music and opportunities to converse with individuals from a range of faith traditions present in Des Moines. 

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The room will be set up as an interactive model of the city complete with a replica of the Iowa Capitol in the center, with religious communities setting up tables to represent where their houses of worship are located around Des Moines. The groups in attendance will include but are not limited to Buddhist, Catholic, Muslim, Jewish and Mormon communities.

Phillips said attending the event offers a chance for Drake students to engage in conversation and productive discourse about faith.

“We live in a very polarizing environment in America these days, so it’s good to have peaceful interactions with people,” he said.

Samaniego said the event helps religious communities strengthen their connections with one another and the Drake student population. 

“This is a simple way to ease a lot of folks into seeing new groups while still coming out and supporting their own,” she said.

One of the main goals of The Comparison Project, fulfilled in one aspect through Roads to Religion, is to create connections and foster mutual understanding between individuals in Des Moines and the diverse range of religious communities in the area. Other local nonprofits, such as the Des Moines Area Religious Council (DMARC) plan similar events that strive to create connections between the city’s faith communities.

Samaniego said The Comparison Project emphasizes relationship-building in efforts to promote an understanding of the diverse religious practices in the Des Moines area.

“It’s tempting to ‘other’ people in our minds because we don’t speak their language, we don’t know their culture, we don’t worship the same religion, but they’re our neighbors,” she said. “To bolster community ties, it helps if we realize how close we all live to each other and how we’re all part of the same neighborhood.”

The Roads to Religion event is part of The Comparison Project’s “Meet My Religious Neighbor” series, which involves site visits to local groups’ houses of worship. The initiative also provides on-campus outreach to engage students with the wider Des Moines community, such as hosting religious groups without their own spaces in lower Olmsted. These events are great opportunities for students to volunteer and engage in conversations with others from different backgrounds than their own, Phillips said.

“It’s really easy for us as students to get stuck on campus and to only visit sites that we’re familiar with,” Samaniego said. 

Planning events through The Comparison Project has offered a multitude of opportunities for Samaniego to gain a greater understanding of varying religious practices.

“You realize really quickly that there’s so many amazing souls that you can interact with and live alongside, and you can’t do that if you stay just where you’re comfortable,” she said. 

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