Empower U workshop reflects on the intersectionality between faith and diversity

By Samantha Holm | Arts & Culture Editor

Humza Khan, ’23, participates in the workshop, where students were encouraged to reflect on what their faith says about diversity. | Photos by Hannah Losech

“Everything is included within the scope of God’s reconciling love in Christ. That is the radiant fact at the center of the Christian faith, and it is the ultimate source of Whitworth’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.”

This quotation comes directly from Whitworth’s Rationale for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. In recognition of this pledge, Whitworth Student Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (SDEI) staff is conducting a series of workshops entitled Empower U. According to the information page for Empower U, its primary aim is to equip students with the knowledge and skills to live in a diverse world.

SDEI director Ayaka Dohi shared she and her associates established Empower U workshops last year in response to students’ increased interest in diversity and equity issues. “Overall, I think the climate was changing. Particularly young people were becoming more aware and making statements about their commitment, so we desired to meet students where they were when they were coming back to Whitworth,” she said.

On Wednesday, Oct. 20, SDEI and Campus Ministries held a “Faith and Diversity” workshop, which prompted students to link their faith with the goals of Empower U. Students of various religious backgrounds attended, and many shared how their faith calls them to think about diversity.

Dohi and Graduate Assistant Ministry Intern for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Marni Nazareno facilitated discussions and led exercises at the workshop. “It was really important for me and Marni to create a space where faith could be talked about, not in divisive ways, but rather, [about] how can we build community and identify shared values, even if we have different traditions or ideologies,” Dohi said.

The exercises consisted of responding to written prompts and engaging in dialogue within both small and large groups. During large group discussions, common themes emerged. In each person’s faith tradition, for example, love and respect of others, regardless of apparent differences, was paramount.

This revelation ties into SDEI’s stance on collective responsibility regarding diversity and equity issues. “No matter what social identity that you carry, everybody believes that everybody should have access to love, belonging, kindness, compassion and basic human rights,” Dohi said. “If we believe that, then all people have a stake in ensuring that all people feel included.”

Student response to the Faith and Diversity workshop was largely positive. Sophomore Logan Bateman felt the event “put a good foot forward” but wished the workshops dove deeper. He felt providing clear definitions of faith and diversity as well as the addition of more time would have spurred on richer conversations. “Opening the door to vulnerability starts with saying ‘Your faith would be specifically what you believe, whether or not it’s aligned with your religion,’” he said.

After the event, Dohi invited students to provide feedback on the event via a digital form. Dohi said many students reported wishing they had more time. She shared she is “wary” of taking up students’ time but is excited about and plans to respond to students’ commitment to learning about these topics.

The next workshop, “Antiracism 101”, will occur on Wednesday, Nov. 10 from 7-8 p.m. in the Crows Nest. To register for this workshop, click here. For more information, contact Ayaka Dohi via adohi@whitworth.edu or (509) 777-4572.

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