Developing A Religious Diversity Profile Of San Antonio

Included in feature by Trinity University

Rising sophomore Benjamin Collinger ‘19 has been tasked with “Developing a Religious Diversity Profile of San Antonio,” which also is serving as the title of his research funded by the Mellon Initiative. Collinger’s research advisor, religion professor Simran Jeet Singh, said the inspiration for the project formed in collaboration with the city of San Antonio’s Diversity and Inclusion Office (DIO). While policymakers recognize that San Antonio has a great deal of religious diversity, they aren’t familiar with the wide array of communities and their leaders. This project gathered qualitative data on San Antonio’s faith communities and built relationships local leaders. This effort is particularly important because diversity practitioners “can’t address major issues until we understand what San Antonio really looks like,” Singh said.

Benjamin Collinger ’19 attends and interfaith dialogue event at the Oblate School of Theology.
Collinger spent the majority of the summer conducting interviews and attending interfaith gatherings across the city. He began with a small list of contacts compiled by the DIO, and gradually grew the list to reflect a broader swathe of San Antonio’s faith communities and collective efforts. In addition, Collinger read prominent works on diversity and inclusion to incorporate the ideas into the project, which culminates in a paper and public report on how the city can be more proactive in including religious minority groups.

When asked about the importance of this research, Singh and Collinger agreed that it has never been more relevant. They explain that faith communities are often the most active vehicles for their constituents’ civic involvement and impact all sectors of our city. Stronger relationships with local religious leaders and communities help the government to uphold its non-discrimination ordinance and inform its efforts to proactively end institutional discrimination within government and around the city.

Collinger plans on studying anthropology and international studies during his time at Trinity.
The experience allowed Collinger to engage with local leaders at the intersection of his interests in government, religion and diversity and inclusion practices. One series of events that were particularly significant to Collinger were the Iftars that took place at the Raindrop Turkish House and houses of worship across the city. At one of these programs, Collinger interviewed an Imam in Spanish about San Antonio’s inclusion of Turkish Muslims and a variety of topics related to Latin America and Islam.

Collinger was quick to note his appreciation for Trinity’s dedication to research and the Mellon Initiative. He hopes to continue this project and see the city implement its suggestions to proactively further anti-discrimination efforts as well as diversity and inclusion programming.

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