Student-Created Organization Encourages Interfaith Collaboration

Two years ago, Daniel Bellerose ’17 started an interfaith environmental project in Western New York. It was a way to connect faith groups in the area to the local environmental movement. His original intent for the project, he said, was to engage faith groups in the surrounding area, like those of Rochester and Buffalo, where there are diverse faith communities. Bellerose also created the organization as a way to use his major, International Development, and his minors, World Religions and Political Science, in a tangible way.

Sustainability coordinator, Brian Webb, has been a mentor to Bellerose for a few years. “Dan is passionate about creation care, sustainability, cultures, and people in general,” he said. “He very clearly sees and understands the dynamic interactions between humans and the environment, and has a sophisticated view about how to address environmental and human challenges together.”

Bellerose’s wife, Rachel Bellerose ’17, said, “Dan is the sort of person who’s always coming up with new ideas, new ways to be involved in the world. He doesn’t just dream about doing things, he does them.”

Today, the organization, now officially titled “The Global Symmetry Project,” is in the process of becoming an official nonprofit. It has also begun to expand out of Western New York, and into an international project. The central missions of the project are fostering dialogue, catalyzing action, and seeking justice. According to the project’s official statement, “We envision a world in which ‘Global Symmetry’ is possible. We seek to create symmetrical interfaith communities both in the ‘developed’ and ‘developing’ world.” The project also states, “To do this work, we partner faith communities in well-off areas to those in areas with a need for sanitation, good governance, or simply peace.”

According to Bellerose, the growth of the Global Symmetry project out of Houghton and into the international community began after spending four and a half months in Tanzania last spring. He experienced the effects of Christian development organizations, and felt lead to extend the reaches of the organization to interfaith development. He said, “What this basically means is that we work with communities from diverse faith backgrounds to create sustainable, holistic development.” The different ways in which this can be achieved are through economic or agricultural development projects, and urban or rural sustainability projects.

Rachel Bellerose also went to Tanzania last spring. She said, “While we were in Tanzania, Dan started noticing a dissonance in how development organizations were focusing their contributions. Although Tanzania is a religiously diverse country, there tends to be a lot more aid going out to Christians than to Muslims or traditional religious groups.” She said Bellerose saw this as problematic, because the unequal aid could be a source of competition and ill feeling between religious groups. Thus, the Global Symmetry Project began.

Bellerose is currently in the first phase of organizational development. He said, “I just recently hired on my first round of interns, which includes people from all around the world, we had applicants from Moldova and Brazil.” Their website, on track to be up and running by July, is being created by Houghton alum Mason Wilkes ’16. The fundraising process is also set to begin in July, which includes raising the necessary funds to become a nonprofit and branding. The goal, according to Bellerose, is to begin development and sustainability projects in five years. These projects will likely take place in the United States and Tanzania.

For more information on the Global Symmetry Project, contact

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