University celebrates world religions

Maria Brachelli

Next week the University will host the first World Religion Days Fair and Forum, a two-day event to promote religious awareness on campus.

The event will kick off on Tuesday with demonstration tables set up in the atrium of the Connelly Center. From 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., representatives will be present from the Lutheran, Pentecostal, Seven Day Adventist, Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist and Episcopalian Churches, as well as the Church of the Latter Day Saints, Society of Friends, Islamic, Buddhist, Hindu and Jewish religions.

The Department of Classical and Modern Languages will sponsor a series in Spanish on Tuesday evening from 6 to 8:00 p.m. in the Cinema, titled “Latin Looks at Islam.”

University President Rev. Edmund Dobbin, O.S.A., will begin Wednesday’s forum with a welcome address. Representatives of the five major represented religions – Hindu, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism and Christianity – will also speak.

The idea of educating University students about various religions became a necessity early last spring, when a focus group survey was administered to non-Catholic students to determine whether their spiritual and religious needs were met.

Campus Ministry was surprised by the results of the survey.

“Non-Catholic students learn about Catholicism and its expression; however, the Catholic students are generally uneducated about the beliefs and rituals of other religions,” Kathy Overturf of Campus Ministry said.

The only solution is for the University to find “a wide awareness, respect and celebration of diverse religious beliefs on campus,” she said.

“Through the help of the public relations staff of SGA and many other supporters, I believe this event has been greatly publicized and published into the minds of many,” said SGA diversity chairman Safeer Bhatti.

“Our expectation is that this event will launch a sequence of many other diversified events and will become the precedent in shaping this institution into a better chocolate, vanilla and strawberry campus.”

“There are those in our world who have robbed religion of one of its essential meanings, compassion for the other,” Overturf said. “We want to restore the notion of religion to its rightful place of honor … that which brings people together through compassion.  So, we want to celebrate and share in the richness of the diverse religions on campus.”

World Religion Days are designed to encourage awareness around campus so that each student feels comfortable expressing their religion, understands that differences can be a positive enrichment to University life and realizes that religious diversity leads to dialogue not direct confrontation with others.

“Conformity is not the goal in religious life, but who you are as an individual, and as a community, rather the identity to serve God and others,” Overturf said.