Posted by: Ahmed Fattouh on 02/04/2017
New multi-faith prayer space aims to achieve collaboration
After nearly a decade of lobbying the University of Alberta for a larger space for religious students to gather and pray, Friday night marked the grand opening of a new area dedicated to multi-faith prayer and meditation.
The large prayer room has been open to students for nearly two weeks and it’s been getting good use in that time.
“Over the last several years, the amount of prayer space on campus has been inadequate to meet the needs of not only Muslim students, but the students from other faith-based communities,” explained Farooq Iqbal with the Muslim Students’ Association.
Iqbal explained how insufficient space at the University of Alberta led to Muslim students being scattered come prayer time. Some went to a nearby mosque, others got creative.
“We’ve been having to pray in hallways or stairwells or wherever we could find.”
The multi-faith prayer space is open to people of all denominations, including those who don’t practice religion at all, but who might seek out a safe and welcoming area.
“There would be people who would come and just sit, or even people that would come and actually do yoga,” Iqbal explained.
Last week, Lutheran Chaplain Richard Reimer saw the space being used just as intended.
“The Muslims were saying their prayers here, across was a group doing yoga in the multi-purpose room and in a small meeting room was a Christian-faith discussion group,” he said. “It was all going on at the same time. The beauty of this space is people meet one another, as you can see, in the hallways. So it encourages interaction, and hopefully one day collaboration.”
He said in the 25 years he’s worked at the university, prayer space has always been in high demand. That’s been especially true lately, with more Muslim students coming to the school and praying multiple times daily.
“There’s also a need for prayer space for people of other faiths, people who’ve been meeting in broom closets here, or a classroom there.”
Reimer said the space is designed to help people get to know one another.
“If somebody is from a small town in Alberta and they’ve never met a Muslim, and they come to Christian prayer, they’re going to meet a Muslim and maybe they’ll get into a conversation.”
The multi-faith prayer and meditation space also features Wudu facilities for Muslims to cleanse themselves before praying.
“I think it’s great because it shows that the university does acknowledge that the Muslim student population is growing,” second-year student Naiha Wasi said.
She also appreciates the larger space.
“Prayer is supposed to be a communal thing. That’s why we have designated prayer times that you can come and pray together, so it is a community feeling.”
It’s something the Muslim Students’ Association appreciates.
“We’re very fortunate that the university has constructed such a beautiful space that will not only serve the students of today but also of tomorrow as well,” Iqbal said.