Harvard Divinity School began a new, online edX course today called: “World Religious Through Their Scriptures.” This course seeks to help students develop more awareness of and sensitivity to religious traditions throughout the world.
That HDS would do this is not particularly surprising. I was startled, however, to read the editorial piece in the Harvard Crimson (undergraduate newspaper) written in response to this course. The Crimson’s positive editorial included a paragraph on the importance of religious diversity at Harvard College, a dimension of diversity not often included in conversations on this theme. Here’s how the Crimson weighed in:
This course is also a reminder of the importance of religious diversity among Harvard undergraduates, a kind of diversity that is not fully addressed in conversations about inclusion at Harvard. Despite this inattention, religious diversity is no less crucial to Harvard’s mission of preparing students to be citizens of the world than diversity of any other kind. The College would do well to promote more discourse about religion during such formative times as freshman orientation and Community Conversations. Harvard students are not immune to prejudices or misconceptions about religion, and these prejudices about such a central and particularly sensitive aspect of people’s lives can be insidious and divisive to a community (italics added).
I must say I’m impressed with the wisdom shown by the Crimson editorial staff. They are right about the importance of religious diversity, the fact that it is often neglected in conversations about diversity, and the need to promote greater understanding of diverse religious traditions. Kudos to the Crimson.