Students, donors, members of the Islamic Society of the Southern Tier, professors and family gathered together and munched on hors d'oeuvres along the side of new Center for Arabic and Islamic Studies, located in Plassmann 206.
"The center was inaugurated with a distinctly Franciscan mission: to promote an understanding of Arab and Islamic cultures and an appreciation of both their historical and contemporary significance in the global community," Fr. Michael Calabria, O.F.M., Ph.D., director and founder of the Center of Arabic and Islamic Studies, said.
Since its founding three years ago, the CAIS has served as a liaison for respect between inter-faith communities, fostering understanding.
"This center… is so vital in today's world and so important for all of our students, and it's at the foundation of Franciscanism," said Dr. Dennis DePerro, university president.
Dr. David Hilmey, dean of the school of arts and sciences, expressed his gratitude to all those who helped with construction of the room. He said that aesthetic is important in cultural traditions like these, and the new CAIS brought about a new aesthetic for students, faculty and staff to feel comfortable in.
"There is an authenticity to this new space," Hilmey said.
The CAIS is decorated with tapestries, art and historical relics lining the walls and tables. There is much history to learn, and Calabria, though he is not Muslim, has an extensive knowledge of the faith and serves as an excellent resource for students.
The President of the Islamic Society, Dr. Tahir Chauhdry, called Fr. Calabria "an honored Muslim."
Chauhdry said although Islam is the second largest religion in the world, the society we live in "makes things very difficult for mainstream Muslims, like myself, and most hard-working, middle-class [Muslims]." The CAIS hopes to ease these struggles by promoting the true ideals of the Islamic faith and by educating students at St. Bonaventure.
The Islamic Society presented Fr. Calabria with a $10,000 check to be put toward the betterment of the new CAIS. Overjoyed and nearly in tears, Calabria accepted the donation. He thanked the Islamic Society and promised to "use [the donation] in the best interest of the educational mission of St. Bonaventure, the mission of the Center for Arab and Islamic Studies, and indeed, the mission of the Islamic Society of the Southern Tier."
The ribbon on the new CAIS was cut on Sept. 26, and will be open for student use going forward.
The day was filled with gratitude, joy and overwhelming cultural pride. The new CAIS will help students achieve and learn going forward, both by encompassing the values of the religion and the values of the university.