SCSU students and staff discuss religious areas on campus
Max Bickley – General Assignment Reporter
What does it mean to have a sense of faith? For some, it is an unshakable trust for one’s comrades and companions. For others, it might be more academic as an understanding of the facets of religious beliefs. Finally, it is also a sense of religious piety and duty to one’s church and self. At Southern, there are as many people of different faiths and spiritualities as there are individuals, but in practice many individuals require a place to practice their beliefs.
To get a firmer grasp on how Southern handles students of so many different faiths, a student would only need to go to the Interfaith office on the second floor of the student center and speak to Chaplain James Furlong. Sitting down at an interview regarding this matter, the Chaplain gave a brief overview of how the Interfaith office as a whole works.
“I oversee mainly the needs of the Catholic students who live on campus,” said Furlong. “There used to be a Jewish Rabbi who worked here, and a Protestant Minister, but both of them left a couple of years ago.”
Given that he stated he only oversaw the Catholic students, I asked what his role was with students who were not Catholic.
To this he said, “Whenever it comes that someone of a different faith comes to me, I refer them to people in the area who can provide the spiritual, or just guidance that they are seeking.”
Now, as some students may or may not know, there are also many religious groups on campus where students of like faiths can come together for scriptural studies or activities. One such group on campus is the Muslim Students Association.
For the Association itself, their meeting room was where the current Student Life office is in the Student Center. This is also the room where they hold group prayer or where students out of class could go to pray should they have missed the typical time. However, in the most recent year their room where they could go to pray was switched to the meditation room which is tight in regards to its size and capacity.
“It seemed sudden. We were told that our prayer room would now be in the meditation room which is little more than a closet,” said Asmaa Abdelati, president of the Muslim Student Society.
Chaplain showed the room, and himself described to his knowledge what had transpired.
“Southern, being a public university cannot designate space to any single religious group. So, we had to find a room where everyone of any faith could go, and you’ve seen how many offices there are, space is limited, but we were able to do it. They also had quite a few requests. There had to be no wall decorations. There had to be a window facing east. A font of sorts for washing, and we just couldn’t accommodate them.”
Regarding the requests made, and the reasoning behind their transfer, the President said:
“We never made such requests. Some people complained about privacy in the room but we covered the windows with banners which are still there. We also shared the room with a couple of other organizations on campus, a Christian one who would also use the room for prayers. We would even wait outside for them to finish their activities before going in.”
As it currently stands, no change has been made regarding the worship rooms, and for any student wishing to seek spiritual consolation or questions, they can visit the interfaith office.
Photo Credit: Max Bickley – General Assignment Report
Photo of Asmaa Abdelati- President of the Muslim Student Society