By Lizz Vensas
Collegiate Staff Writer
The Muslim Student Association is working to provide students with an interfaith prayer room that could be used by students of any faith to meditate or reflect however they choose.
“The room would be for any student who wants to use it for spiritual reasons,” said Mohamed Elui, president of the Muslim Student Association. “You could go there to pray, meditate or read the Bible or Koran.”
“Muslims pray five times a day,” said Elui. “Our prayer is very important. We would like to have a designated space to go and pray or to make up prayer times.”
Elui went on to describe why a designated room would be a great improvement for Islamic students at GRCC. “It has to be in a private, secular place,” he said. ”We have to face east. The process can take anywhere from five to ten minutes. We need space for a mat and the place where we pray has to be somewhere clean.”
Elui and the Muslim Student Association approached the GRCC Christian Fellowship about joining together to make the room a reality.
“I think our group would endorse this,” said Harry Lew, staff advisor to GRCC Christian Fellowship and campus minister. “I don‘t see why they wouldn‘t if it is a room for student meditation.”
Lew sees the interfaith prayer room as a positive way to understand other religions and possibly have joint meetings. “I think there can be a lot of misunderstanding between different religions. We should at least try to understand others,” said Lew. “It is also good for the school to acknowledge the spiritual dimension in our life.”
Christian Fellowship President Abigail Bartlett is interested in learning more about what the interfaith prayer room would entail.
“It is a group decision,” said Bartlett. “I am not sure what the atmosphere would be like and I would like to know more. It could be distracting (to have the different activities).”
Leaders of MSA have also been working with students at Grand Valley who have recently started their own interfaith prayer room.
“A close friend of mine had gotten the ball rolling at GVSU,” said Pamela Martin, vice president of MSA. “We are trying to base what we‘re doing on that model.”
Martin has talked with her friend about what they needed to do when they went through this process, discussing the steps that were taken and how the space provided is currently working for them.
“The room at GVSU is a very tolerant environment,” said Martin. “We hope for the same thing at GRCC. It took them almost a year, but they saw the fruits of their labor,”
MSA has recently submitted a request for space for their room through student life.
“The plan for an interfaith prayer is a real possibility,” said Eric Mullen, head of Student life. “I don’t see any problem; it is just a matter of seeing if there are any open spaces on campus that would be available for use.”
Mullen is encouraged by the fact that all students would be able to use this room. “It would be accessible and meet the needs of several groups,” he said. “It’s a common student interest.”
Elui is optimistic about MSA’s goal to get the room up and running. “Of course the sooner the better,” he said. “But we are being patient and not demanding anything.”
“This is not a matter of budgetary concern,” said Mullen. “If we have an open room and MSA is first to request it, it may happen.”
Mullen has recently submitted MSA’s request for space to Victoria Janowiak, executive director of Operational Planning at GRCC. Janowiak and her space planning team will evaluate the needs of the overall student body and see if there are open rooms.
“The challenge with this request is the amount of time and the way we allocate spaces and schedule classes,” said Janowiak. “We don’t dedicate space for singular purpose, so we need to do a little more exploration around what options we have to meet that request that would fit withing our space use practices.”