Project Interfaith Mosaic Aims to Promote Religious Diversity

Posted: October 10, 2010 in Project Interfaith

 

Project team members sit outside the UNO Collaboration Center. From back left: Janet Voelker, Nya Taylor, Katy Clarke, David DenBeste, Sierra Pirigyi and Kourtney Rahder.

 

By: Mitchell Warren

Situated in the bustling UNO Collaboration Center, a small group of dedicated individuals work on a project they hope will create greater understanding and cooperation amidst an increasingly diverse urban landscape.

The Omaha-based group, Project Interfaith, aims to promote diversity through an extensive video mosaic.  The project will showcase community members from different religious and spiritual backgrounds responding to several simple yet revealing questions.  Once completed, viewers of the community mosaic can experience alternate viewpoints to their own spiritual realities.

“The project is about getting people’s stories while showing Omaha’s diversity,” said Sierra Pirigyi, a Project Interfaith intern who helped develop and make the mosaic project a reality.

Pirigyi was drawn to Project Interfaith last spring because of her own personal interest.  “I had wanted to work in nonprofit for a while,”  she said, “I definitely see the importance in it.”

Experience with an earlier project helped spur the creation of a video mosaic concept.  The earlier project, the Interfaith Youth Service Project, used video diaries of student volunteers to highlight their experiences.  Pirigyi described some of the recorded moments as “really a powerful thing” and considers the project as “the catalyst” to the mosaic project.

“This project has been my life since June,”  Pirigyi said, “I’ve probably spent more time with it than with my homework.”

The project split teams of interviewers into groups that will target 17 different religious and belief systems around Omaha.  Anyone is invited to participate in the project and can attend interview sessions held at the UNO Collaboration Center.  One such session was held on October 7 and two more sessions will be held later this fall.

“We get to hear lots of different stories,” Katy Clarke, a Project Interfaith interviewer, said, “I like to know what other people believe.”

Kourtney Rahder, another interviewer, shared similar views about her experience thus far with Project Interfaith.  “I’ve always been interested in what other people believe,”  she said, “you hear stories you might have had an actual bias toward and then break that bias.”

Interviewers were given basic training on how to interview before the project began.  “They talked to us about how to encourage people to tell their story,”  Rahder said.  This training helped Project Interfaith’s members develop questions that would get subjects talking.

Interview subjects are not allowed to view the questions before the interview. “A lot of times, if they know what’s coming, it will sound really staged,”  Amanda Ryan, a student involved with Project Interfaith, said, “We wanted genuine responses of how they really felt.”

Hannah Niebaum showed up to be interviewed on October 7.  She felt the project was promoting a “great cause” and believed the interviewers asked reasonable questions.  “It was good,” she said, “I usually don’t like video interviews, but they didn’t ask for too much information.”

Project Interfaith operates to provide educational opportunities and create a space where people are respected, said Ryan Strawhecker, Project Interfaith’s  communications and development director.  “A big part of that is getting people to interact and learn about each other,” he said.

The community mosaic is just one way Project Interfaith attempts to execute its mission.  Strawhecker explained the different programs the nonprofit organization has to offer.  In addition to the mosaic project, which falls into their topical category, Project Interfaith focuses on spiritual diversity training, arts programs and speakers.

Strawhecker views the community mosaic project as a great resource for all people of all faiths.  “There are not a lot, really any, who try to do that with everybody,” he said, “we’re really trying to connect people; not speak for other people, let them speak for themselves.”

Project Interfaith plans to upload the completed mosaic to their Web site.  Strawhecker hopes this will increase traffic to their own platform and help spread the word about Project Interfaith.  “We’ve already received interest from people in other countries,” he said.

The community mosaic video project should be completed before next spring.  Project Interfaith hopes to debut the completed project sometime next April.

—————————————-

Those interested in Project Interfaith should check out their Web site:

http://projectinterfaithusa.org/

Visit Project Interfaith’s YouTube channel to see what inspired the community mosaic:

http://www.youtube.com/user/ProjectInterfaithusa

 

Photograph taken by Mitchell Warren

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