Off to College, but How do You Pack Up Your Religion?



>The bigger issue on a college campus is
that we have become more global. There's just no question that we've become more global. And what's happening in most universities around the United States is that the groups that are different, that are coming from different parts of the globe are just coming together and staying together in their own group and not having conversations with other groups. What we as an American university
should offer these groups is the chance to be able to really learn about other
people, different kinds of people, different kinds of religions, different kinds of languages, different kinds of attitudes. I think that that's just vital. >Sometimes what people believe in scares certain people and religion becomes a very iffy topic. And these are stuff that most of us keep inside because we're too embarrassed to say them or we're too scared to share these ideas or these thoughts because we're scared of what other people would say, or if it would hurt someone else. >I love to talk about diversity, and we love to teach about diversity, but religion is something that we really leave behind a lot. >Sets of conversations will teach us a lot. For example, we just learned that, you know, people are not talking about religion at all on this campus. And that there are real differences in the way, we thought at least, people were handling their religious sort of affiliations once they came to Buffalo. That's a huge, wonderful
piece of information. Every conversation is going to help us to understand the biases people have, the ideas they have, what they want to learn about, and how to approach these topics. You know, several of the students, while I was waiting outside, said: "Why aren't there classes on all the religions in the world, you know? I've never been taught that. I don't know anything. When we're
taught World Civ and History we're not taught about all the different religions in the world." And that's how you learn. You learn from difficult conversations,
where the gaps are, what people don't know. >Sometimes I kind of take people at face
value, and just to be in a room with so many people that were from different
religions and practice different religions and they went through
different things in their family like growing up the way that they were raised, it kind of caught me off guard. When I heard other people sharing their stories, some were similar to mine and some were totally different but it was so good to
hear people's perspectives, it just made me really want to open up and share what
I have gone through in my religion and how I feel about it now. >Well first of all, people really start to
learn about what the other people are thinking in the room, and usually it's very surprising. They're very surprised, they haven't
known that a Muslim would think "X" or they haven't known that a Pentecostal
Christian would think "Y". They haven't known that that was what their attitude
was but they're always surprised. They're very surprised. They also find that the most terrifying and disgusting and awful and difficult topics are things that can actually talk to someone about and that makes so much difference. I mean, you know, we've had difficult
conversations in some of my religion and law classes about abortion, you know,
about the submission of women, about many topics. And invariably, at the end of it, people come up and say: "I'm really glad
we had that conversation. I never could understand- understand- why they were
doing it; why they thought the way they thought. >You can't have the mindset like
"my religion is better," because in actuality, when you sit down and listen
to someone else's religion at some point you can kind of understand where they're coming from. I wasn't raised that way but I do
see where you're coming from. So I think it's all about acceptance. It's about acceptance and just really
being able to live together in a harmonious way. You don't have to truly
accept that religion as your own, but just that respect is really important. >UB is where it starts. Where we start to
understand other people and how religion works outside in the real world and we should learn. Since we learned that here, it only
makes it easier out there, you know. To learn compassion here, and we'll be
compassionate outside. > And knowing that these environments are available to
students will grow as an idea. You'll have students start to know that this is
what's going to be discussed. These are the kinds of ideas I'm sort of
wondering, you know, about this. And then, you can even promote more difficult
conversations, you know. Get groups that are not happy with each other to
converse. Israeli and Palestinians, you can get Tibetans and Chinese, you can get lots of different cultural, ethnic and religious groups religious groups to actually start having some of these conversations because that should happen in a university I mean, a university is about really learning to test yourself, really learning to push yourself, really learning to question the biases you have,
question the ideas that you have. I want them to have as a greater sense of
ease in approaching these topics with other people. I want them to be able to
say: "I'm not Muslim, I'm Pentecostal Christian but I want to ask this Muslim about how they feel in hijab, I want to ask this Jehovah's Witness about why they have dietary restrictions and if it's helped them. I want to be able to understand how
they're thinking, be able to stand in their shoes. Understand why their religious values are so important to them. I mean, I think being able to ask
and understand how to ask is just incredibly important for their future lives.
I mean, for the whole rest of their life this is really vital.

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