District 214 hosts World Religions Summit, explores religious diversity in a multicultural society

In mid-March, District 214’s World Religions team hosted its second World Religions Summit, themed “Building pluralistic spaces through religious literacy.”

The all-day summit brought together 75 students from four schools, classmates in the district’s World Religions courses. Keynote speaker Dr. Hussein Rashid, assistant dean of Religion and Public Life at Harvard Divinity School, talked about religion in the cultural landscape — how religion and religious traditions are embedded in daily life — with Chicago as a model.

Students used the interactive format to explore questions like “What does religious diversity look like?” and “How can the lack of religious literacy lead to conflict or harm?”

They also listened to Jewish students from the Chicago area talk about diversity within the Jewish community. As part of the Student to Student program, panelists explained Jewish traditions and the three main sects of Judaism — Reformed, Conservative and Orthodox.

District 214 is a nationally recognized leader in religious literacy. The program is led by Prospect High School teacher John Camardella and his colleagues Brian Hauck from Wheeling High School, Saarah Mohammed from Elk Grove High School, Sean Radcliff from Rolling Meadows High School, and Jeanne Shin-Cooper from Buffalo Grove High School. Camardella began teaching the district’s first World Religions class in 2009, and since then has helped draft national standards and best practices for teaching religion in high schools.

For Shin-Cooper, as for Camardella, the World Religions experience is about understanding and appreciating cultural and religious diversity.

“This is such a unique class,” said Shin-Cooper. “We want students to be able to think for themselves. I think they come away from an event like this understanding that the skills they leave with have everything to do with religion — and more, such as how to process information and how to live in a multicultural society.”

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