Interfaith Student Profile: Emily Achilles, Class of 2012
My name is Emily Achilles and I am a senior majoring in History and Political Science with a minor in Jewish-Christian-Muslim Relations. In the global context in which we live, Merrimack College serves as my laboratory for exploring and engaging the world and helping to investigate and dissolve barriers. And through the Center for the Study of Jewish-Christian-Muslim Relations, I am able to stand at the intersection of the interfaith dialogue, not just on this campus or in this local community, but across the entire nation.
As a student, I am a living representation of Merrimack’s commitment to being a leader in undergraduate interfaith education. But I could not do it without the Center facilitating my experience.
Thanks to a generous grant from the Center, in October 2009 I traveled with two fellow Merrimack students and three Brandeis students to Northwestern University to the 6th Interfaith Youth Core Conference, “Leadership for a Religiously Diverse World.” Over the course of the three-day conference, I was exposed to religious diversity like I had never seen before, ranging from meeting Buddhist monks to listening to conservatives and liberals from all different faiths.
The diversity was not only among the attendees, as each workshop session had a myriad of different subjects being offered. I chose workshops based off of my interest and what they could help me bring back to Merrimack. The workshops I attended centered around leadership and bringing interfaith dialogue to a college campus in a constructive manner.
This past summer, again thanks to funding from the Center, I interned with Cooperative Metropolitan Ministries during their eight-day Interfaith Youth Initiative Summer Institute (IFYI) at Brandeis University. IFYI is a year-round program for high school age students to engage in a safe interfaith environment guided by college interns and adult leaders. While I was there, I was surrounded by various faith traditions and welcomed into a community that moved beyond conflicts and difficulties to become one that fully embraced the beauty in the Other. We traveled to mosques, churches and synagogues as well as led a peace march through downtown Cambridge as a united group advocating for a better future.
I was one of three college interns from Merrimack sent to IFYI by the Center, and we were all interviewed by Joel Nicolas, one of the high school students in the program. Joel (TJ) created a documentary of our experience. You can see us on YouTube, thanks to WCAC TV and "A Joel Nicolas Production."
If the 20th Century is historically known as the “American Century,” the 21st Century will undoubtedly be recorded as the “Global Century,” as a multi-lateral world develops and demographic, cultural, linguistic and religious barriers are tested and removed by the natural flow of international and intercultural communication. No corner of the globe is immune to this force, and no other barrier is harder to remove than that which stands between different religious communities.
Thanks to my involvement with the Center for the Study of Jewish-Christian-Muslim Relations, I feel I will be uniquely prepared for the challenges and opportunities ahead of me.