Better Together BU encourages interfaith literacy

Better Together helps unify the many religions found on Baylor's campus. Photo courtesy of Baylor University

By Tatum Mitchell | Staff Writer

Better Together BU merges Baylor Spiritual Life and the Department of Multicultural Affairs to encourage appreciative knowledge and intentional relationships across diverse paths of faith.

The Woodlands junior Noor Saleh is a civic interfaith leader with Better Together. Saleh said the group focuses on learning and sharing stories.

“[Better Together] was created out of this need for religious minorities, and also for the religious majority here at Baylor, to learn more about their neighbors and to develop that understanding between groups,” Saleh said.

Dr. Blake Burleson, senior lecturer in religion and associate dean for undergraduate studies in the College of Arts and Sciences, is a member of the advisory group for Better Together. Burleson said the group creates a safe and comforting space for people to share their insights.

“I enjoy that work because I see the wisdom in other traditions,” Burleson said. “That is just simply beautiful and life-giving. It’s something that has integrity and speaks a truth that is profound.”

San Antonio junior Manaal Salman is a civic interfaith leader with Better Together. Salman said since she is Muslim at a university with a smaller Muslim population, this group has given her a space to bond with people who are similar and different.

“We’re not that different,” Salman said. “A lot of times, the way we practice our faith and our culture feeds into the rest of our lives.”

Saleh said her position with Better Together focuses on representation and accommodations for religious minorities. For example, there is a reading room open during the day for students to use for prayer, meditation and other needs.

“We have such a diverse student population,” Saleh said. “If we don’t know the appropriate facts about a religion, we can have preconceived biases, preconceived prejudices that can show up in the way we treat others. It also allows us to understand people better.”

On March 29, the organization hosted its annual Better Together day at Fountain Mall. This included handing out merchandise and encouraging people to sign the “Good Neighbor Pledge.”

“We encourage people to sign the Good Neighbor Pledge,” Saleh said. “This basically says that students on campus are looking forward to meeting their neighbors, ensuring that their neighbors are taken care of and just an overall pledge to be a good person.”

Saleh said the organization usually hosts the Interfaith Regional Gathering where they invite Better Together chapters from across the state for workshops and speakers since the organizations are all a part of the Interfaith Youth Core.

Salman and Saleh said practicing interfaith literacy by starting genuine conversations about others’ experiences are good first steps. Students can learn more about Better Together by emailing BetterTogether@baylor.edu.

“Start by creating those relationships, but be intentional in those relationships,” Saleh said. “Saying, ‘This is a new friend. This is not someone that you’re using to learn from, but this is a new friend, and I’m so happy to walk with them through this journey.’”