Hundreds of students took part in the two-day World Religion Days Fair ‘n’ Forum held on campus this week.
The event began Tuesday with an informational fair presented by people of different faiths. Display tables lined the Connelly Center atrium providing information about world religions.
Many of the presenters were surprised by the relatively high turnout at a Catholic school.
“I am very ecstatic that the University would make what I would call an aggressive move towards heightened awareness,” Charlene Congo, a 1988 graduate at the Seventh Day Adventist table, said.
Congo said such a celebration of diversity would not have been as likely when she was an undergraduate.
Brian Smith, who represented the Episcopal faith, said, “We are Christians first and break into other sects later.”
Kerrye Wasserman of the Hillel Society helped inform students about several aspects of the Jewish tradition, from the foods specific to the faith to the experiences of being a Jew on a Catholic campus. Wasserman said many students were surprised to learn that Jewish students attend the University.
The fair was geared toward dispelling general religious misconceptions, ranging from the reasons Hindu men wear turbans to why some religions are seen as cults. At the Islam display, participants were informed that while many assume the vast majority of Muslims are Arabic, Islam is a global religion.
Students who attended the fair received pamphlets and handouts on everything from “A Crash Course on the Anglican Tradition” to “The Vegetarian Food Pyramid.”
The second half of the World Religion Days celebration focused on an informational forum on Wednesday afternoon.
“The only specific goal everyone involved in the forum has is in bringing the students of different faiths closer together by understanding each other’s belief or religion,” graduate student Jamal Al-Khaduri said.
Al-Khaduri introduced Dr. Mustafa Ahmed of the Foundation for Islamic Education. Other University students introduced speakers from both inside and outside of the community with expert knowledge of the Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish and Christian faiths.
“Having these types of events raises awareness of different religions, which results in the future graduates having better knowledge of people in different parts of the world and their practices,” Al-Khaduri said.