64 Days of Nonviolence: Faculty opens up about religious beliefs


Taylor Nicole Richards – News Writer

Deacon Patrick T. Moran announced during the interfaith dialogue event on March 2 that everyone on earth is his brother and sister under God. He said that when one lives their life in love, for their God and for their neighbor, all differences and prejudices will fall away.

Moran, an IT worker, along with three other faculty members, sat together on March 2 to have an open dialogue about their faith traditions in front of an audience. This event was part of the 64 Days of Nonviolence observation brought forward by the women’s studies department. Rosalyn Amenta, professor of women’s studies, moderated the event by asking thought-provoking questions to staff members whom all practice different religions.

“There needs to be a distinction between religion and spirituality. Often religion will foster disagreement, whereas spirituality goes to a deeper level and searches for a universal experience that brings us into a closer union,” said Amenta.

She questioned each member if they find there is an “irreconcilable difference” between the academic mind and their own spiritual goals. Martin Laskin, professor of sociology and Judaic studies as well as a practicing Jew, said that science does a good job of explaining the universe but in the end cannot answer every one of humanity’s questions.

“Science explains how things are done. What is doesn’t do is get to the question of why,” said Laskin. “Religion can yield the question of why, and one does not negate the other.”

When Amenta asked members of the dialogue what their faith traditions teach them about environmental sustainability, each had a distinct answer. Richard P. Zipoli, assistant professor of communication disorders, is a practicing Buddhist. He said that a central tenet of Buddhism is interdependence and unity.

“We are part of the earth and the earth is part of us. When we bring that interdependence into one’s life, sustainability becomes second nature,” said Zipoli. “When I met the head of the Cambodian Buddhist tradition, he told me that the earth is our mother and if we take care of her she will take care of us.”

Dr. Amal Abd El-Raouf, associate professor of computer science and a practicing Muslim, said that everyone must live in harmony with the earth that God has gifted them. Muslims believe that one must nurture the environment to leave it in good shape for the next generation.

For Buddhists like Zipoli, compassion is held to the highest regard. He said that everyone must work towards relieving the suffering in others and within themselves. This is why he chose to be a vegetarian. However, Laskin follows kosher dietary restrictions. He said if someone has to eat meat, they should do it with understanding of what they are eating and how the animal was slaughtered.

Lastly, Amenta asked members how they can shed light on the moral codes of their religions as educators without being dogmatic.

“Many of our religions have the same origin, and many of our answers have been very similar. I try to always emphasize everyone’s similarities in many contexts,” said El-Raouf. “God does not look into your faces, colors, nor your bodies. He looks into your heart. People think that Islam is a violent religion, but a religion cannot be violent. Islam teaches you that if you kill one person, you are killing an entire people.”

Moran had similar sentiments in terms of how he practices Christianity. He looks at his religion and the religion of others with an open mind and does not condemn someone who chooses not to believe at all.

“It is my firm belief that life is a gift from God himself. Some of us accept it and some of us don’t,” said Moran. “And whether we do or don’t, God will continually be there for us if someday we do step forward and say, ‘Yes, now this makes sense, now I accept.’”

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