2017-04-21 / Faith

CLU’s Interfaith Allies encourage dialogue and acceptance

Club talks religion, politics, social issues
By Melissa Simon


Mehak Sachdev Mehak Sachdev When Simi Valley resident Mehak Sachdev first stepped onto the Cal Lutheran University campus as a freshman in 2013, she didn’t think she’d fit in, simply because of her faith.

“I honestly thought I would be forced to suppress my Hindu beliefs and I wouldn’t be accepted, so I kept my faith very private. I don’t think anyone even knew I was Hindu,” said the now-21- year-old senior, who is majoring in bioengineering.

It wasn’t until she took an Introduction to Christianity class with professor Rahuldeep Gill later that year that the student felt comfortable expressing herself.

“(Gill) oversaw the campus’ Interfaith Allies club and invited me to check out the group, so I attended a few events and fell in love with the idea that even though we all have different faiths, we also have many common goals, values and missions in life,” Sachdev said.

UNDERSTANDING OTHERS—From left, Anna Lundsten, Toby Keagy and Mehak Sachdev gather for the Interfaith Allies Club’s weekly meeting April 19 at the fire pit at Jack’s Corner on the Cal Lutheran University campus. Photos by MICHAEL COONS/Acorn Newspapers UNDERSTANDING OTHERS—From left, Anna Lundsten, Toby Keagy and Mehak Sachdev gather for the Interfaith Allies Club’s weekly meeting April 19 at the fire pit at Jack’s Corner on the Cal Lutheran University campus. Photos by MICHAEL COONS/Acorn Newspapers Interfaith Allies is comprised of at least 30 CLU students, faculty and staff members who work to promote cooperation and dialogue among various groups, including Christians, Muslims, Lutherans, Catholics, Jews, Hindus, agnostics and atheists.

Since joining the group her freshman year, Sachdev has made it her mission to further the club’s goal of creating a safe place for people to share their beliefs and values and engage with one another to make the world a better place.

“Recently we’ve seen a very bitter election that has been this wedge dividing our nation, and every day we flip on the news and see how religious conflict divides us and dominates the world,” Sachdev said.

“While it’s important to shape our understanding of current global events, like the recent air strike in Syria, we also need to think about how we’re going to bring change. The problem is that we tend to view issues from one side, but we need to come together to use diverse viewpoints to solve those problems.”

In 2015, Sachdev became lead interfaith intern at CLU’s Community Service Center, which aims to teach students how to become leaders in public service and justice. Her responsibilities include leading discussions about faith and other hot topics at the Interfaith Allies’ weekly meetings and at a handful of monthly events, in order to promote diversity and keep the campus connected with the national Interfaith movement.

The meetings are typically informal. On any given week, the club might talk about light topics, like weekend activities or love, or delve into more serious issues, like elections, the Syrian refugee crisis, or incidents of racism in the students’ communities.

This type of dialogue is important to have in colleges, Sachdev said, because students are in their “formative years,” when they begin to shape their identities.

“Sometimes things get messy and a little harsh . . . but (Interfaith Allies) is trying to show that various religious and philosophical backgrounds don’t have to be a wall of hatred. It’s a bridge of cooperation,” she said.

“I’m not saying that everyone should be a Christian or Muslim, but we should embrace each others’ identities and not bash on someone else,” she continued. “Sometimes we’re afraid to be politically incorrect, but you can talk about anything with Interfaith Allies.”

Late last year, members of the group participated in a solidarity demonstration in Simi Valley following a Dec. 10 hate crime in which a worshiper was stabbed near the Islamic Center of Simi Valley at 1756 Erringer Road.

The group also joined other demonstrators Feb. 5 during “Stand With Our Muslim Neighbors,” a grassroots event organized by a CLU staff member in response to President Donald Trump’s executive action on immigration.

Sachdev said her fellow students are the “changers of the world—the next generation to do something great.”

“We’re all we have, so we need to love our brothers and sisters and have their backs because at the end of the day, we’re all one family,” she said.

Return to top