by, Julian Tiburcio, Contributor
Campus Ministry and Social Action and the Holocaust, Genocide and Interfaith Education Center held the Interfaith Discussion Panel on Tuesday, April 13. Speakers from the Black Student Union, the Muslim Student Association, the Jewish Student Union, along with Brother Carlos Pinto-Corredor participated in a discussion about the influence that their religion and faith have had on them amidst the many social, political, and racial justice issues that have occurred in the past year.
The panel began with a question about how faith and religion has shaped their political experiences this past year, considering the social, political, and racial justice issues that have occurred.
Mamady Ballo, President of the Black Student Association, expressed how her identity as a Black, Muslim, American woman has mobilized her to advocate for herself and others like her, and how that has strengthened her faith.
“I had to first educate myself more on being a Black woman in America,” she said. “[I had to] figure out, ‘Oh, this is what I deserve and this is what people of my same background deserve’…This is the time that I need to pray for my brothers and sisters. It’s not only affecting me anymore; it’s affecting the whole world.”
Faith has also functioned as a tool for helping people overcome some of the division that these recent events have caused. Brother Carlos Pinto-Corredor, a Christian Brother, said that he sees faith as a force for good, and supporting those who are being oppressed and violated is one way to practice that and overcome some of the division.
“My faith as a Catholic allows me and calls me to see others as equals,” he said. “Even with different cultural, religious experiences, beyond that, human dignity is what is above that and is what calls me to do good.”
The panelists went on to talk about their religious communities and how they have been affected by these recent political injustices. Heba Alomari from the Muslim Student Association shared how her community has grown closer and more understanding based on their experiences.
“So, my Muslim family and friends, even Muslim classmates, were brought closer by these political issues, because as Muslims, we’re all constantly faced with racial injustices, such as the Uighurs in China, and the Muslims in Burma, and the Palestinians in Palestine,” she said. “We’re all faced with discrimination and we all know how it feels, and because we all know how it feels, we’ve always stood with whatever minority group that faced political discrimination.”
Pinto-Corredor also noted that members of his faith community may differ in their opinions and interpretations of social and political issues, so it’s important to listen to other people’s opinions and experiences.
“I think that as a member of a community, in relationship with faith, we need to be open to learn about the other, their uniqueness, and the interpretation of faith in different places,” he said. “In the past year, when I see some statements and ideas about abortion, about racial justice, about gender issues, there are positions that I disagree with. It’s challenging sometimes, because you say, well, one thing says religion, another says the social-political arena, so where I am placing myself in [that] is sometimes challenging.”
The panelists finished their discussion by discussing the level of influence, if any, that religion and government should have on each other.
Alomari offered some insight in favor of this idea, while Ballo and Pinto-Corredor argued against it.
Artur Polyak from the Jewish Student Union shared a more neutral stance on the subject. He emphasized how religion can strengthen someone’s character and build social awareness and community, potentially making it beneficial in government. However, he also recognized that people have different beliefs and that a government ruled by one religion would have issues serving a wide range of people.
He suggested teaching and implementing concepts from different religions in schools and in government so that people could reap the proposed benefits of it in a balanced way.
“What you learn in religion, that’s what you’re learning. You’re learning how to be a better person, how to be even more and more [socially] aware,” he said.