Diverse Owls: Religious diversity across Southern’s campus

Max Bickley – General Assignment Reporter

In regards to human history, religion is one of the oldest institutions which still exists to this day. The largest faiths in the world, in regards to number of adherents, according to the Pew Research Center are “Christians (32 percent of the world’s population)…Muslims (23 percent)…Hindus (15 percent)…Buddhists (seven percent).”

One of SCSU’s major missions is to maintain a degree of diversity on campus. Now, diversity can be a multitude of things such as race, ethnic background, but also religious belief. There are a total of “10,473 students” on campus according to the Southern’s website, which means there are literally 10,473 people with their own individual faith and belief.

Asma Abdelati, the president of the Muslim Student Association on campus is Muslim. In her own words, during this time in her life and the country’s history, being Muslim is not so easy. This is especially true given events of the past years and that Muslims are a major minority given they make up “0.9 percent” of the American demographic, according to the Pew Research Center.

“After everything in the past 15 years there has been a bit of a judgment on Muslims,” said Abdelati, “And after anything happens on the news I literally find myself and my friends say ‘please don’t be Muslim’ because that will mean another instance of people getting angry.”

However this may be, Abdelati said her faith is something stronger than the prejudices of the world.

“My faith is who I am.” Abdelati said. “My faith is in who I am, what I do, and it is not a violent faith like many think. With everything going on, I wish people would just learn more, that way we can prevent more anger from spreading.”

In regards to the violence mentioned by Abdelati, Imam Hussein spoke at a social held by the MSA commented on the “violence” in Islam.

“The Qu’ran teaches that in war touching an innocent person is wrong, even cutting a tree down is wrong to do,” Hussein said, “The people who commit violence such as ISIS does, in heart, do not follow Islam.”

In regards to the major religion of the world, Christianity, there are many different denominations of that one faith. Sophomore Tony Dinse, finds that his particular branch of Christianity and faith is similar to Abdelati.

“I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints [LDS], I’m a Mormon,” Dinse said, “And my faith defines me. My faith is in everything I do, and I try to live to the highest standard I can.”

In regards to his faith though, Dinse believes there are, like many other faiths, stereotypes that could be put to rest.

“Most people associate Mormons with polygamy and multiple wives, being a cult, awful things like that,” said Dinse, “[I] Have to say that polygamy isn’t practiced anymore, it is not a cult, and I just wish people had more of an open mind. People who aren’t open to understanding only spread more ignorance.”

Statistically speaking, quite similar to Muslims in America, while Christians make up “70.6 percent” of the American religious demographic, Mormons are a minority with only “1.6 percent” of that 70.6 percent being in America, according to the Pew Research Center.

However, while students such as Abdelati and Dinse are adherents to a faith, there are also many who do not associate with a particular faith. Senior Renee Leblanc does not associate with any belief.

“I do not identify with any religion, I guess the only one I’ve ever really liked is Wicca, but I don’t do well with practicing religion.” Said Leblanc, “I think not affiliating is easier because it’s the best for learning because I wind up being more open minded.”

Whether a student worships Jesus, Buddha, or Allah, Southern winds up being a mix of as many different faiths as there are people, and not only is there the interfaith office at Southern in case of help spiritually, but also Chaplain Furlong who can direct students to local religious affiliated centers or clergy.

Photo Credit: Sean

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