Offering up acceptance

By on March 23, 2017

Upon first glance, Quinnipiac may not strike many as a very religious school.

In reality, however, there are four prominent groups on-campus: the Catholic Chaplaincy, Hillel for Jewish Life, The Quinnipiac Christian Fellowship and the Muslim Student Association. Each provides spiritual and pastoral counseling, worship, sacraments and celebratory activities. Students have the opportunity to interact and become aware of the diversity of the Quinnipiac University community.

Before joining Quinnipiac’s Catholic Chaplaincy, sophomore media studies major John Welsh admits he was unaware of its presence.

“I actually hadn’t known there was a dedicated student organization for religions here, though I am grateful that they exist and are easily accessible,” Welsh said.

Each year the organizations seem to attract more and more students. Rabbi Reena Judd, the University’s Jewish clergy person, can speak to this, as she herself has witnessed incredible growth in Hillel.

“When I came here 13 years ago, we didn’t even have a building,” Judd said. “I met with eight students every fifth Friday night to celebrate the Sabbath. Now we get 30 kids every week.”

For those who are members, these organizations play a huge role in their campus experience as well as their everyday lives.

“Catholicism in general has been the driving force in my life,” Welsh said.

Bonds and friendships often form as people when common interests come together.

Jewish student and Hillel member Noa Haninovich says the best part of the experience is his relationship with Judd.

“She has turned into a mentor for me and is someone that I am able to go to for any guidance, support or help that I may need,” Haninovich said.

“It’s like a little family,” Quinnipiac Junior, Johanna Pedersen said. “People come here for the environment, the comfort and the good food. ”

Pedersen has been taking Hebrew classes with Rabbi, despite her non-Jewish faith.

Judd describes the atmosphere of her Hebrew language classes as being very relaxed.

“If people want a more formal, religious experience, this wouldn’t necessarily satisfy them. I’m not very formal,” she said with a laugh.

“Being part of a community means having a place to go to where people know where you’re coming from regardless of where you started,” Welsh said of the Catholic Chaplaincy.

While the community aspect is a definite plus, these religious organizations are about more than just connecting with your own faith and others who share it. It’s about raising an awareness of religions and cultures different from our own.

Unfortunately, the Muslim faith attracts the most negative connotations. The Muslim Student Association (MSA) at Quinnipiac are hoping to change that.  

“I think it’s so important to have student faith based organizations like the MSA because it provides us with the opportunity to spread awareness about what our faith teaches,” MSA President Ayah Galal said.  “Unfortunately, there are a lot of misconceptions about Islam and so a lot of the events we organize are centered around educating people.”

Education is the antidote to ignorance and it is one religious associations like the MSA are trying to provide.

It’s also about eliminating hurtful stereotypes.

“I think the biggest misconception people have about my religion is that Islam is a violent religion,” Galal said. “It really saddens me when people attribute the actions of a small group of extreme people to the entire religion of over 1.7 billion people worldwide. Islam is a religion centered around peace and if people took the time to understand the religion more, I think they would realize this.”

A common misconception about the student faith associations is that students have to be of a certain faith to join. This is not the case at all. The students here are happy to accept all regardless of their beliefs.

You don’t have to have a religious background to join our group,” Quinnipiac’s Christian Fellowship member Christina Barbaro said. “We welcome anyone who would like to come check it out.”

“I started fresh, coming in here,” Pedersen said about Hillel. “I didn’t know anything about the language, religion, culture. To me, you don’t take a class because you already know a lot about the subject. You take a class to learn something.”

These organizations shed light on the importance of making sure that they practice what they preach through all aspects of life.

“As a Muslim it is your duty to be the best version of yourself and to improve your community, and that’s simply what I strive to do,” MSA Vice President Ali Munshi said.

Students like Munshi also appreciate the prayer room, located in SC 207, on a regular basis.

“I utilize the prayer room often, I pray a lot. Especially during finals,” he joked.  

Rabbi Reena understands that at Quinnipiac, no matter what your religion, culture or faith, we all strive for the same things.

“Whether you’re Jewish in America, Jewish in Israel or Muslim in Islam, everyone just wants to be loved,” Judd said. “It’s religion. You can’t do religion wrong as long as you’re sincere and your heart’s in the right place.”

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