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  • Katie Buerger

The Importance of Interfaith

This past Friday in Thwing Atrium, UPCaM joined with five other religious groups on campus to talk about the roles religion can play in the life of a student. Case Western Reserve is happy to boast of ten different religious student organizations: six Christian, one Muslim, one Hindu, two Jewish, and one Unitarian Universalist (past organizations also included an atheist and a Buddhist group – both of which sadly lost membership). However, even among the Christian organizations, there is relatively little conversation or collaboration. Newman and UPCaM join together to put on a campus Ash Wednesday and an Advent “Lesson & Carols” service every year; Intervarsity and Cru joined together for a large Easter Celebration last year and have done other, irregular events in the past. Yet beyond these minimal interactions, students know next to nothing about the organizations outside their own–– if they know of these organizations at all. Last year, UPCaM decided it was time for this to change.

small group session following panel discussion

Being religious is becoming less and less common. Depending on the region you live in, you very well may belong to a small minority that identifies as religious at all. For a long time now, this has meant that it is getting harder to be religious. People don’t necessarily understand why you are upset when sport games or meetings are held on certain days of the week, or why your faith is important. I know I personally have met a number of people who viewed religion as a crutch, even though they understood my personal choices. Based on Donald Trump’s rhetoric during his campaign, these difficulties seem only likely to get worse. In fact, some of the biggest issues in America today boil down to a hyper-focus on differences rather than commonalities as Americans or human-beings. However, this is not the bigger picture, nor necessarily what is most important either.

As people of faith, who are called to love across all religions, this is important to remember. Although there are a lot of differences between religions, anyone with faith can understand how difficult it is to have faith. The many issues faced by this country and this world are not about to be solved, but many of these issues are things that can begin to be slowly addressed by individuals. One way UPCaM has set about to do this at Case Western is to open up paths for awareness, dialogue, and collaboration between Case’s many religious organizations. This began last year with an “Inter-religious Week” held in April: a week of events culminated by a large dinner and panel discussion. This year, UPCaM has embarked in a different direction that will hopefully engender more long term interaction between the religious organizations. Along with Newman, MSA (Muslim Student Association), Hillel, Chabad, and Hindu YUVA, UPCaM has started series of collaborative events that should not only help people become more aware of other religions (and other religious groups on campus), but also bring our campus community closer together.

This began on Friday with a student panel discussion on “How To Live Your Religion as a Student.” Student panelists included members from each of the six participating organizations–– Harini Ushasri (YUVA), Amalia Gitosuputra (MSA), Joyce Chu (Newman), Talia Adler (Hillel), Rohan Krishna Ramkhumar (UPCaM), and Joey Picard (Chabad)–– moderated by UPCaMer, Katie Buerger. Discussion ranged from questioning your religion to navigating holidays without break time, and grabbed the attention of a number of lunchers and non-attendees. Panelists were eager to discuss the various roles their religion plays in their lives, whether that is through regulated customs or spiritual well-being. One panelist, Joyce Chu, even shared how she came to be religious and eventually converted to Catholicism. Although statistics show Millennials are the least religious of all generations, it was clear from these student panelists that faith still plays a huge role in the lives of many Millennials (even at a scientifically-minded school like Case Western). Although it was a small step, the panelists all agreed it was one in the right direction––and that is what is most important: taking small steps, one at a time, to heal old wounds.

Panelists from left to right: Harini Ushasri, Amalia Gitosuputro, Joyce Chu, Talia Adler, Rohan Krishna Ramkhumar, and Joey Picard

About Spiritual Potpourri

This blog is written by me, Katie Buerger (unless noted otherwise) and maintained by UPCaM@Case. I am a current junior at CWRU, and have been an UPCaM member since my first year. Because I am Spiritual Potpourri’s exclusive writer, this means the opinions and perspectives given in blog posts are limited to my views. I think myself to be open-minded, but I am human. I do research my topics (all the sources are listed at the bottom of each post), but I ultimately can only write from my perspective as a Christian. I try to write to a general audience (not exclusively to Christians), but I do at times make assumptions about the knowledge of my readers. However, I would like to assert that my views are not representative of UPCaM’s or Christianity’s – they are mine alone.

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