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Student leaders of the Programs in Religion, Interfaith and Spirituality Matters — Penn’s interfaith group — met on Feb. 20 to discuss the prospect of adding three new student organizations to its constituency.

The Penn Baha’i Association, Penn Students for Christ and Penn for Jesus have since been added to PRISM. While each of the groups expressed different motives for joining Penn’s interfaith community, one common goal was to contribute to the interfaith dialogue at Penn.

College junior and PRISM chairwoman Maria Bellantoni said PRISM is striving to diversify its constituency by reaching out to various groups with which it had not previously interacted.

But, she said, these groups must sustain themselves, actively participate on campus and contribute to the PRISM community in a meaningful way by engaging in interfaith dialogue and working collaboratively with other religious organizations.

While some groups will be able to contribute more than others in terms of manpower, under PRISM, Bellantoni said, groups share in an “equal partnership” in furthering interfaith life on campus.

Bellantoni also said that while two out of the three groups recently inducted are Christian, the selection doesn’t reflect a bias or preference toward Christian groups. Rather, it reflects the reality of campus demographics.

“It’s kind of the way the cards lay,” she said.

College junior and PRISM representative for the Penn Baha’i Association Gabby Abrishamian-Garcia said that while Penn Baha’i is very small — with a membership of only four people — the group has something to offer in terms of adding a new perspective to the PRISM community.

Many people haven’t heard of the Baha’i faith because it is a very young tradition, Abrishamian-Garcia said. “We really want to participate in interfaith discussion,” she added.

Engineering junior Dalton Banks, the university liaison for Penn Students for Christ, also hopes that joining PRISM will mean more interfaith interaction between PSC members and other religious groups.

“We want to grow in interfaith dialogue,” he said. “It’s something we haven’t been strong on in the past.”

Penn Students for Christ is part of the national organization Campus Crusade for Christ.

Banks also hopes that joining PRISM will help provide more service opportunities to Penn Students for Christ members.

Penn for Jesus, despite the similarity in name and constituency base, hopes to bring PRISM different offerings than Penn Students for Christ.

According to Penn for Jesus staff director Michael Hu, the group functions as an “informal umbrella organization” for several Christian fellowships on campus.

Penn for Jesus is not like other Christian groups on campus, he said. “We specifically work to be the ministry that serves [as the] connecting point” for underrepresented nondenominational groups. He hopes his organization can act as a voice for these groups.

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