A call to prayer



Kyrie Hupka

On Sept. 18, Villanova celebrated World Religions Day in an attempt to broaden horizons and increase understanding of other traditions.

Kathy Overturf, associate director of Campus Ministry, explained that World Religions Day is “a response to 9/11 with the goal of educating the community about the diverse religions represented on campus.”

The celebration was first developed by the Interfaith Coalition, a group of students with varied religious backgrounds. The group identified the need for increased religious awareness on campus.

“Since Villanova is predominately a Roman Catholic university, it’s important to raise awareness of the richness of our religious and cultural diversity,” Overturf said. “World Religions Day aims to connect students of different religions with places of worship in the community and help them to feel comfortable.”

Although Villanova is a Catholic university, students of other religious backgrounds often find the practice of religion on campus to be comforting, even if it’s not their own, she added.

World Religions Day has several co-sponsors, including Campus Ministry, Discipleship Council, Interfaith Coalition, Falvey Memorial Library and International Student Services.

Overturf commended the library staff in particular for being “very receptive to the whole event and always willing to be collaborative.”

The day’s events began with an information fair at 11 a.m. at the Oreo.

Over a dozen information tables hosted by students representing various religions welcomed visitors and distributed information.

The purpose of the fair was to “help students get to know students of other traditions and get to know their own tradition better as a result,” Overturf said.

Students from a variety of religious backgrounds, including Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Islamic, Jewish and Quaker faiths, informed visitors about the traditions and beliefs of their respective religions.

“Living in a religiously pluralist society, it is important to continually develop an expanding world view, rather than having limited views about the diverse religious traditions and institutions that are a significant part of many people’s lives,” said junior Scott Hollingsworth, a member of the Interfaith Coalition.

World Religions Day continued with a discussion led by Rabbi Eric J. Lazar of King of Prussia’s Temple Brith Achim in the Falvey Memorial Library Holy Grounds that afternoon.

The discussion centered on the Jewish High Holy Days: Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

His discussion gave some of the history behind modern Jewish observances. He explained the tradition of the shofar – a horn that is blown in synagogues to mark the end of the fast of Yom Kippur and at four occasions during the prayers on Rosh Hashanah.

The final event of the day was a forum held that night in the Connelly Center Cinema. Students representing assorted religions presented a ritual dramatization of the day’s theme, “A Call to Prayer.”

The goal of the forum was to “capture a snapshot of how different religions practice rituals and how they pray,” Overturf said.

To exhibit their distinctiveness, students of different faiths shared their traditions through demonstration.

David Heayn, president of the Muslim Student Association, demonstrated and explained the prayer rituals of Islam.

“I sincerely hope that the Villanova community embraces this opportunity to learn and see past stereotypes and misconceptions,” Heayn said.

Overturf said that although no specific event was an impetus for planning the event, World Religions Day can help Villanovans to understand religions’ differences and the role that these differences play in the world today.

“These events were actually planned before the anti-Semitic incidents on campus,” Overturf said. “But in light of those events, it’s important to remember that most conflicts regarding religions in the world today have more to do with political aspects than with the belief systems themselves.”