Kirby Prayer Room provides students with on-campus worship space

Prayer Room Label, Photo Courtesy of Madison Hunter

Prayer Room Label, Photo Courtesy of Madison Hunter

Located at KSC 367, the Kirby Prayer Room is an important resource for religious or spiritual students that, while not strongly advertised, is available to anyone.

The room includes a sink for washing and several books and pamphlets. A key for the room can be found at the Kirby Welcome Desk. The room provides a space for religious or spiritual students and has become a valued option for student organizations on campus that involve or center around religion.

Marwa Hamed, President of the Muslim Student Association (MSA), felt the room is an important resource for the campus and for members of MSA.

“I think it is super important for UMD to provide these services and make them more accessible for religious and even non-religious students that need a safe space. It's about having a place where for a couple of minutes a day, you could go and get in touch with yourself, because sometimes with the craziness of every day, one needs a moment to get grounded again,” Hamed said.

One issue with the room is that it can only fit one or two people. This would would potentially cause problems if a student need space or want to practice their religion with a group of people.

Various books and pamphlets included in prayer room, Photo Courtesy of Madison Hunter

Various books and pamphlets included in prayer room, Photo Courtesy of Madison Hunter

“I don’t believe that UMD does a great job providing students with these resources. The prayer room we currently have is like a closet space. In many public institutions, they provide for students a decent sized room with chairs, prayer rugs, and holy books,” said Hamed. “They don’t have to spend much, but just providing a nice space and letting it be known that the room exists, would definitely get more students aware that they have a safe space to go to in the first place.”

Hamed added that the room is a central part of the day for many members of MSA.

“I know from my organization, the room gets used on the daily. Muslims pray 5 times a day and sometimes between classes, it is a prayer time, so many students sneak away for a bit to go and pray. Especially since the, the mosque is a bit away from campus and not all students have cars,” Hamed said. “In addition, too, MSA doesn’t have any Friday services held on campus like other religious organizations do.”

Hamed added that representation is important for a healthy campus and noted that MSA played a major role in the creation of the prayer room several years ago.

“UMD is supposed to be a place where all students feel welcomed regardless of how much of a minority those students are, as a public institution, there is a responsibility to make everyone feel belonged. Representation is so important. It sparks conversation and learning about one another’s differences. I know two years ago, MSA students had to work so hard for us to even be given a room a prayer room. It was such a big success when we got one, but there is always room for improvement and cultural awareness and growth.”

Emile Ziebarth, a representative for the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship based at UMD, agreed that the space is a welcome addition to the campus.

Entrance to prayer room, Photo Courtesy of Madison Hunter

Entrance to prayer room, Photo Courtesy of Madison Hunter

“I am very appreciative that the University provides this area. Prayer is incredibly important to our practice as Christians. Although it has not largely been utilized by students of our community, I believe that this space can make an important contribution to the overall health and well-being of students who use it. This may be particularly true for those who require such a space for their daily prayer practice, although I cannot speak on their behalf.”

Ziebarth added that while the room is not commonly used by InterVarsity members, both herself and the organization appreciate the resources it provides their fellow students.

“I think that there is pretty limited awareness of this resource among students in our organization. Although I personally am aware of the room, I have never used it myself, nor have I heard of anyone from InterVarsity using it,” said Ziebarth. “However, it is really nice to know that the space on campus is available for times when a more private meditative space is needed and I think our students would benefit from increased awareness of its existence.”

The prayer room is placed in a hallway along with several other meeting rooms on the third floor of the Kirby Student Center, near both the Kirby Ballroom and the ramp which leads to the Dining Center.