As the son of a Methodist minister, Arthur Vining Davis held a deep respect and appreciation for the traditions that provide meaning and hope for many. Mr. Davis could see then what is equally true today: most Americans draw on religious convictions in ways that motivate their thoughts and action and inspire them to love and serve their fellow citizens.
As one of the most religiously diverse nations in human history, the United States faces the challenge of nurturing an increasingly religiously pluralistic society while also moderating religious tension. Achieving these twin goals requires Americans to embrace a deeper understanding and appreciation for religious traditions other than their own, and to cultivate opportunities for collaborations and friendships across religious divides.
Interfaith Leadership and Religious Literacy grants typically range from $100,000-$300,000, although the Foundations will entertain larger requests.
Faith-based campuses provide students with an opportunity to explore various fields of study through the lens of their faith tradition. Students emerging from these institutions often go on to key leadership roles within their communities.
Grants in this focus area seek to support increased religious literacy and interfaith engagement at these campuses with the aim of producing future leaders who are knowledgeable and empathetic and who actively seek interfaith partnerships.
Featured Grant: Elevating Interfaith Cooperation Across the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities Network
The Christian Leadership in a Multifaith World Curriculum explores the Christian foundation for interfaith engagement, builds students’ religious literacy and gives students the tools to lead bridge-building activities in their communities. For more information about this featured grant, please click here. To learn more, click here.
There are many indications that Americans are increasingly polarized across various lines of difference. Social media, national news outlets, and the public square all show signs of both deep disagreement with and, increasingly, disdain for one another. How can we repair these divides and increase not only tolerance but respect for those from whom we differ?
We know that polarization and partisanship are perpetuated when we surround ourselves with people and voices that align only with our distinctive identities and points of view. But there are times and places in our lives where we are surrounded by—indeed sometimes immersed in—communities that are highly diverse. The college campus is, for example, among the most diverse public spaces in contemporary American life.
Today’s campuses host students and faculty who represent different ages, races, nationalities, political ideologies, and religious affiliations. As a result the college years represent an ideal time and opportunity to encourage students to practice learning from and more deeply appreciating others from who they differ. To promote such learning and appreciation, the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations supports numerous projects that bring students together across lines of difference in sustained and meaningful ways.
One of these initiatives specifically aims to bring college students from different campus faith communities together to learn about and from each other concerning areas where they agree and where they disagree.
In 2021 the Foundations provided financial support to the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) to promote engagement, dialogue, and fellowship with students from other campus faith communities. FOCUS hosts chapters on over 200 campuses in 41 states which support Catholic students in the spiritual and intellectual development.
Through a $150,000 grant, FOCUS will invite campus chapters to submit applications for up to $5,000 to co-host events (or series of events) with campus groups that represent different religious traditions, such as the Muslim Student Association, Hillel, the Buddhist Society, and Cru. Events eligible for funding can take many forms, such as service projects, reading groups, informal dinners, and even sports leagues. FOCUS expects to provide funding for activities on up to 50 campuses during the 2021-2022 year. All projects will be designed in such a way that they promise to help students of varying faiths encounter one another in ways that include ample time for socialization and meaningful conversation.
Through sustained discussion and productive personal engagement, FOCUS believes that students on campus will better understand others with whom they differ. Eileen Piper, Vice President at FOCUS explains, “Since they are recent college graduates and receive extensive training in interpersonal communication FOCUS campus staff are particularly skilled in fostering dialogue that can create authentic, lasting friendships. Relationships built on friendship and trust will be the foundation for a clear understanding of similarities and an honest discussion of differences. In this way, interfaith encounters can create communities of awareness that will have a ripple effect across campus and contribute to an atmosphere of peace on campus.”
Many campuses support programs that foster opportunities for moderated, face-to-face interaction between students from different identity groups, with the goal of increasing understanding and collaboration.
Grants supported in this focus area can support curricular and extra-curricular programs of this sort either between students from different religious communities, or between religious students and students with no religious affiliation.