Interfaith Youth Camp: August 14-18

On the week of August 14-18, Drake University’s Comparison Project, along with the Des Moines Area Religious Council and the Iowa Sikh Turbanators, will host its first interfaith youth camp. We have invited high-school students from each of the 15 communities featured in A Spectrum of Faith to participate in the camp.

The morning hours of the camp will be spent creating digital stories about personally meaningful faith experiences and sharing them with one another. The afternoon hours will include site visits to different places of worship and discussion of interfaith principles and practices. On the final afternoon of the camp, we will screen all the stories for the general public (8/18, 3pm, location TBD).

The camp is, above all, an opportunity to share one’s own religion with others and learn about some of the other religions that are practiced in the greater Des Moines area.  Beyond that, it is an opportunity to learn about the principles and practices of interfaith understanding and dialogue, and by doing so, to become interfaith youth leaders.

Campers will receive a $500 honorarium, a copy of Eboo Patel’s Interfaith Leadership, and breakfast and lunch each day.

For more information, please contact The Comparison Project’s director, Tim Knepper.

8/12 Meet My Religious Neighbor: Sikhs of Iowa Khalsa Heritage, Inc.


“Meet My Religious Neighbor” continues on Saturday, August 12th with an open house at the Sikh Temple in Johnston, Sikhs of Iowa Khalsa Heritage, Inc. (SIKHI). The open house will last from 10am until 1pm.

From 10am – 12pm visitors can tour the Temple and learn about Sikh beliefs, practices, and culture. From 12pm – 1pm visitors can join the members of the Temple for their congregational prayer (aardas) and meal (langar). The meal is free vegetarian meal that is served to all regardless of caste, class, or creed.

Visitors are advised to dress modestly and bring a head covering (scarves for women, kerchiefs for men). There are some kerchiefs and scarves available at the Temple.

SIKHI is located at 4820 NW 59th Ave in Johnston.

7/2 Meet My Religious Neighbor: Tu Vien Hong Duc (Vietnamese Buddhism)


Join us on Sunday, July 2nd between 12:30 – 4:00 pm for the next open house in our Meet My Religious Neighbor series. This open house will be held at Tu Vien Hong Duc, a Vietnamese Buddhist temple at 5906 SW 9th Street in Des Moines.

The open house begins at 12:30 with a Vietnamese meal. After that, we will have an opportunity to tour the temple and its statue park and to talk to the temple’s head monk. Participants are then invited to remain for the dharma talk (“sermon”) at 2:00 and chanting meditation at 3:00.


06/03: Meet My Religious Neighbor at Ezan: Islamic & Education Center

Join us on Saturday, June 3rd at 8:30 pm for the next open house in our Meet My Religious Neighbor series. This open house will be held at Ezan: Islamic & Education Center, a Bosnian mosque at 6202 Douglas Ave in Des Moines.
Participants can watch the congregants of Ezan perform their sunset prayer (maghrib) around 8:30pm and their night prayer (isha’a) around 11:00pm. In between, we are invited to join the congregation in their Ramadan break-of-the-fast (iftar).

Parking at the mosque is limited. Participants should instead park across the street in the Merle Hay Mall’s SW lot.



05/04: Comparative Philosophy of Death and Dying

  • Tim Knepper, Professor of Philosophy, Drake University
  • Lucy Bregman, Professor of Religion, Temple University
  • Mary Gottschalk, Adjunct Professor of Religion, Drake University
  • Allen Zagoren, Associate Professor of Public Administration, Drake University

May 4, 2017, 7:00 p.m.
Cowles Reading Room, Cowles Library


For the final event of its 2015-2017 series on death and dying, four scholars will offer their comparative philosophical reflections about death and dying in the religions of the world, especially with regard to the influence of the medicalization of death on traditional theologies and rituals.

  • Timothy Knepper is a professor of philosophy at Drake University, where he directs The Comparison Project, a public program in global, comparative religion and local, lived religion.
  • Lucy Bregman is a profess of religion at Temple University and is the author of several books on death and dying, including Death in the Midst of Life, Beyond Silence and Denial, and Preaching Death.
  • Mary Gottschalk has served as an adjunct instructor at Drake University for the last two years, teaching courses on death and dying.
  • Dr. Allen Zagoren is Associate Professor of Public Administration in the College of Business and Public Administration at Drake University, where he teaches in the areas of health education in health policy and bio-ethics.




"To Die in Peace": Negotiating Advance Directives in a Navajo Context

Michelene Pesantubbee, Associate Professor of American Indian Studies, University of Iowa

Thursday, March 23, 7:00 p.m.
Sussman Theater, Olmsted Center

Health care providers in IHS facilities and hospitals have long been reluctant to raise end-of-life issues with Native American patients for fear of violating tribal customs. Dr. Pesantubbee will discuss Navajo beliefs associated with illness and death and how those ideas informed Navajo refusal to consider advance directives. She will conclude with a summary of how the Fort Defiance Indian Hospital staff worked with Navajo social workers to devise a plan that resulted in extraordinary success rates in obtaining Navajo end-of-life directives.

Michelene Pesantubbee is an associate professor of religious studies at the University of Iowa. She specializes in Native American religious traditions especially Native American women and religious change and Native American religious movements. She is the author of Choctaw Women in a Chaotic World published by the University of New Mexico Press.

Listen to the audio of the lecture below:

Brain Death; Islamic Theological Responses to Medicalized Dying

Aasim Padela, Director of the Initiative on Islam and Medicine, University of Chicago

Thursday, March 2, 7:00 p.m.
Sussman Theater, Olmsted Center

Dr. Aasim Padela’s lecture will describe critical Islamic theological concepts and relevant juridical rulings pertaining to end-of-life healthcare. Specifically, it will examine ethico-legal perspectives on withdrawal and withholding of life support and brain death, and cover how notions about moral obligations and preservation of human dignity inform viewpoints on death and dying.

Dr. Aasim Padela is the Director of the Initiative on Islam and Medicine and an Associate Professor of Medicine at the MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics at the University of Chicago. Dr. Padela is a clinician-researcher and bioethicist whose scholarship lies at the intersection of community health and religion. He has served as a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholar from 2008–2011, a Visiting Fellow at the Oxford Centre of Islamic Studies in 2010, and a Templeton Foundation Scholar from 2013–2015.

Video of the lecture

Buddhism and The Dilemmas of Death

Damien Keown, Emeritus Professor of Buddhist Ethics, Goldsmiths College, University of London
Read by and response by Gereon Kopf, Professor of Religion, Luther College

Thursday, February 9, 7:00 p.m.
Sussman Theater, Olmsted Center

Prof. Keown’s lecture explores the ramifications of the “brain death” criterion of death for Buddhism. Keown suggests that, from a Buddhist perspective, brain death is too uncertain a basis on which to declare the death of a human being. Reviewing attitudes to brain death in Japan and Thailand, Keown concludes that Buddhism does not regard the loss of function in the brain as equivalent to human death.

Damien Keown is Emeritus Professor of Buddhist Ethics at Goldsmiths College, University of London. His main research interests are theoretical and applied aspects of Buddhist ethics, with particular reference to contemporary issues. He is the author of many books and articles including The Nature of Buddhist Ethics (Palgrave, 2001), Buddhism and Bioethics (Palgrave 2001), Buddhism: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, 2000), Buddhist Ethics: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, 2006), and the Oxford Dictionary of Buddhism (Oxford, 2003).

Copy of the Keown Lecture

12/8: Community Interfaith Dialogue

Moderator:Norma Hirsch
  • Norma Hirsch, Professor of Osteopathic Medicine at Des Moines University
  • Younes Ali Younes, imam of the Islamic Center of Des Moines
  • Ksenija Milinkovic, presbitera of St. Demetrius Serbian Orthodox Church
  • Ajahn Jackson and Ajahn Somphan, Wat Phothisomphan

Thursday, December 8, 7:00 p.m.
Iles Funeral Homes, Dunn’s Chapel
2121 Grand Ave, Des Moines

Among other questions, the panel seeks to explore beliefs about what happens after death and practices concerning what must be done before and after death. Representatives of three different local refugee communities will explore these beliefs and practices from the perspectives of their religious traditions: Vietnamese Buddhism, African Muslim, and Serbian Christian. The panelists will focus particularly on the tensions between traditional theologies and rituals of death, and the way in which death has increasingly become the domain of medicine and law.

Audio of the Panel:

Audio of the Q&A:

Interfaith and Multicultural Fair

tippet-picturesInterfaith and Multicultural Fair

November 15, 4 to 6 p.m., Parents Hall, Olmsted Center

The Iowa Interfaith and Multicultural Fair, scheduled from 4 to 6 p.m. in Drake’s Olmsted Center, will feature representatives from 15 central Iowa faith communities—including three Jewish synagogues, three Christian churches, three Muslim mosques, two Hindu temples, two Buddhist temples, and two Sikh temples. The fair is sponsored by The Comparison Project at Drake University, the Drake Community Press, and the Des Moines Area Religious Council.

The fair will feature music, food, photography, information, and religious objects from each of the participating faith communities. Attendees will also have an opportunity to pre-order copies of a photo-illustrated, student-written book about “Religions of Des Moines,” which is being written and produced by The Comparison Project, the Drake Community Press, and local photographer Bob Blanchard. The book is expected to publish in spring 2017.


The Interfaith and Multicultural Fair will precede the 37th Martin Bucksbaum Distinguished Lecture with Krista Tippett, taking place at 7:00 p.m. at Drake University’s Knapp Center.

Tippett is host of On Being, a Peabody Award-winning public radio program and podcast that traces the mysteries of human existence. In addition to being one of the world’s leading journalists covering faith and religion, Tippett is also an advocate for civil discourse. Her latest initiative, the Civil Conversations Project, fosters a series of conversations, public events, and resources to help heal the divisions within our communities.