Cultures mingled Thursday night at the fourth annual Dialogue Dinner.
Sponsored by the Intercultural Dialogue Student Association, the dinner’s mission is to “provide effective representation for all students who believe in Intercultural Dialogue in the age of globalization,” according to the program’s website.
The dinner, held in Ballroom B at the Student Center, opened with a slideshow of past trips to Turkey taken by members of the IDSA. The program offers the trip to staff and students each year with the intention of inspiring them to practice cross-cultural living.
Mark Amos, associate provost of University College, attended the Turkey trip in 2009. He said the trip was an eye-opening experience, and he encouraged everyone to consider going.
“At every stop, we were engaged in conversation with people wanting to explore a religion other than their own,” he said. “It’s that kind of open-minded, kind-hearted understanding of others that the IDSA stands for.”
Among the invited speakers was Scott Alexander, associate professor of Islam at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.
After opening with a traditional Arabic greeting meaning “peace be with you,” Alexander gave a brief explanation of Islamic culture, which included a few readings from the Quran.
Noel Benson, a freshman from St. Louis studying Spanish education, said she enjoyed the dinner.
“As a Christian, I agreed with what Dr. Alexander had to say,” she said. “I didn’t know the Quran related somewhat to the Christian Bible.”
Alexander said this is why he enjoys his work. He said sparking an interest in the minds of a younger generation to learn about another culture is what society needs.
“One thing that is important when discussing this cause is not the similarities of the cultures, but the differences,” Alexander said.
He said while most people believe different is dangerous, it is the difference that makes people thrive as communities.
Cameron Flowers, a senior from Carbondale studying accounting, said the event inspired him to go out and experience a culture other than his own.
“I believe that learning about other cultures makes you a well-rounded person and allows you to relate to those around you,” he said.