Written by Student Assistant EJ Hurt
TACOMA, Wash. - Pacific Lutheran University men's soccer student-athlete and ASPLU vice-president Oni Mayer was one of the students leading the charge in organizing the first ever Interfaith Games on Foss Field on April 27. The Interfaith Games promote interfaith cooperation, education, and cultural humility through a wide-spread gathering of students, staff, and faculty from various backgrounds in physical activity and meaningful dialog.
"I thought it was a great opportunity to connect with other students through physical activity as well as spirituality or religiously," said men's tennis student-athlete Justin DeMattos who was one of the students attending the event. "Everyone has their own perspective and thoughts on things and having an inclusive space to share that with everyone over sports and games was fun. How religious, what religion, or what background you came from wasn't an issue but a great learning experience to hear from everyone about who they are."
The large group of 48 students and team captains that participated in the event engaged in activities that ranged from relay tic-tac-toe, to sit down discussions opening the doors for people to discuss and share from their different religious backgrounds. Proceeding the activities, the group was led up to MBR Music Center where they engaged in a group prayer from each religion that was represented at the event, and enjoyed a meal together. The group, comprised by many students who entered into the event with little familiarity with the other people involved, by the end of the event, could be found laughing, smiling, and conversing comfortably with each other.
Making this event a reality was no simple task, however, with Mayer, a midfielder for the 2017 Northwest Conference Champion Lutes, teaming up with fellow student Aziza Ahmed to make the inaugural event a success.
"We're both graduating next year and want to see this event continue in years to come," said Mayer. "We're going to use what we learned this year to grow it even more next year so that it's in the best possible shape for those who will carry on the torch. We plan on including a passionate younger student group next year who can potentially pass the IG on."
Mayer and Ahmed enlisted the help of Campus Ministry, ASPLU, Student Activities Board, and the Interfaith Working Group to make the event a reality.
Mayer appeared in 18 games last fall for the Lutes, making four starts and helping PLU finish the season with an 11-5-3 overall record and a 9-3-2 mark in NWC play.