Colombia – a Reflection

Our Catholic Interfaith Scholar, Justine Carlson, traveled to Bogotá in December 2016 through the University Ministry service immersion programs. The following is a reflection of her trip.

Human dignity is not negotiable. This was a nugget of wisdom that I learned back in December while I was in Bogota, Colombia. It speaks volumes as to how one would answer the Vincentian question; What must be done? There is more that needs to be done than I realized. I was catching up with an old friend the other day and he asked me about my trip to South America a couple months back. I was taken back to the place where forgiveness, human dignity, reconciliation, faith, education, and power were normalized and brought into a new light.

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One of the several greatest lessons I learned in Colombia was how education, religion, politics, and social justice can be intersectional. I am still trying to figure this out today as I witness several minority groups suffering and not provided with the same rights as the majority. As a Roman Catholic, my continuing question is how can I be an ally? How can I help? My time in Colombia has made me appreciate religious diversity, even more so than I did before. While most the country identifies as a Catholic/Christian country, how one lives out their faith there is different based on the individual through education, political participation, giving back to their local communities, and many other ways.

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Another highlight that I took away from this experience was their approach to nonviolence. In Colombia during this time, part of the national peace agreement had passed, which grants equitable and equal human rights for all. This was a true historical moment for them. One last piece of wisdom that I’ll never forget is that faith is about uncertainty. Similarly, to the United States, many are uncertain of what their future will hold for them. It is not as easy as it sounds, but having a small bit of a hope and/or ounce of faith is how the people in Colombia that were experiencing trauma, homelessness, violence, whatever it may be, continue living the fullest life. Faith through resilience.

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Perseverance and Faith: A Hindu Perspective

By Priyanka Patel

“Work hard” they say. “Everything will work itself out”.

Phrases every individual has grown up hearing. They’re the same phrases Michael Jordan’s mother told him when he didn’t make the high school basketball team. They’re the same phrases that J.K Rowling told herself when publishing companies closed their doors to her. They’re the same phrases that Thomas Edison heard each time he invented yet another lightbulb that just wouldn’t work.

We know that perseverance is the key to success, yet we fail to recognize what it is that allows one to persevere in the face of failure. “It’s not about how many times you’ve failed, it’s how you many times you get back up that matter”. As a senior about to complete her undergraduate studies and prepare for the next stage of life, it is not graduating or being on my own that frightens me, it is having to persevere when I am unable to achieve my dreams that scares me the most.

Don’t get me wrong – I know that hard work is the key to success. But what happens when you try your hardest and it just isn’t good enough? How come there aren’t stories about those that tried their hardest and had to settle for average? Are those people not worth learning about?

Test anxiety is a common experience, especially for those that are familiar with the LSAT. I’m surrounded by great role models that have persevered through their failures and are now living their dreams. I want nothing more than to be one of those people.

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As my Law School applications begin to come together, these are the questions that linger on my mind the most. It is in times like these that I turn to my one constant in life. The outlet that never seems to falter. The rock that never withers. My faith.

My guru (spiritual leader) tells me, “Do your best. Leave the rest.” As I open up my exam results, these are the words that spring to mind. I may not be happy with the results, but I am content with myself. At the end of the day, a person is not measured by their successes, but rather the way they make others feel. My religion has taught me that. And during these moments when I feel as though my dreams are too far out of reach, I find comfort in knowing that I have already achieved what matters to me the most – living a life of sacrifice and service of others.

Perseverance comes in all shapes and sizes. My faith has taught me that. A Hindu perseveres on a daily basis by controlling their mind, the hardest battle to win. Having the strength to refrain from indulgence is what perseverance means to me. My guru teaches me that. When I think of my faith, I know that there is no end to what I am able to accomplish.

With this in mind, I stop staring at my LSAT score, and remind myself that I’ve already accomplished what so many others are unable to, and my life is a strong testament to that.

Failures will not define me. Numbers will not define me. A career will not define me.

My faith is what will define me.

Hinduism will define me.

I am a Hindu.

 

 

 

Importance of Interfaith Dialogue

By Priyanka Patel

While most college kids look forward to spending that beautiful, stress-free week in March on a beach in a tropical climate, I chose to spend mine volunteering with the Daughters of Charity in Bladensburg, Maryland. Upon arrival to Bladensburg, we were told we’d be staying in a convent with the Catholic nuns that were kindly hosting us. This was the first time I’d ever seen a nun, let alone step into a convent. I was born and raised a devout Hindu, and still practice my faith on a daily basis. I wear a red vermillion mark on my forehead to symbolize my affiliation to the Hindu faith. Nonetheless, each of the nuns greeted me warmly and were careful to ask about my religious dietary restrictions so that they could prepare food for me accordingly. The next morning, we headed to Church. I sat in amazement witnessing the love and devotion among the Catholic devotees. While serving meals to the homeless, I watched as the community came together, gathered in small Church basements serving what they could and bowing their heads in prayer in unison. It was these small moments that I realized the importance of interfaith dialogue. Though my religion is much different than the Abrahamic ones that surround me, we are all essentially devoted to one cause – social upliftment. Through this mission, we can find our similarities and coexist. As my Guru, H.D.H Pramukh Swami Maharaj once said at the United Nations’ Millennium World Peace Summit in 2000,

“Just as the unity of our followers makes our religion strong and protected, the unity of all faiths will make our common future strong and protected… True progress of any religion lies not in growth by numbers but by the quality of life and purity and the spiritual awakening in the adherents. Thus every Hindu should become a better Hindu, every Jew a better Jew, every Christian a better Christian and every Muslim a better Muslim and every follower should become a better follower… Religious leaders should not dream of establishing their religion as the one religion of the world, but dream of a world where all religions are united. Unity in diversity is the first lesson of life. Flourishing together by working together is the secret behind peace.

 

Colombia…4 months later

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(by Justine Carlson)

Human dignity is not negotiable.

This was a nugget of wisdom that I learned back in December while I was in Bogota, Colombia. It speaks volumes as to how one would answer the Vincentian question; What must be done? There is more that needs to be done than I realized. I was catching up with an old friend the other day and he asked me about my trip to South America a couple months back. I was taken back to the place where forgiveness, human dignity, reconciliation, faith, education, and power were normalized and brought into a new light.

 

One of the several greatest lessons I learned in Colombia was how education, religion, politics, and social justice can be intersectional. I am still trying to figure this out today as I witness several minority groups suffering and not provided with the same rights as the majority. As a Roman Catholic, my continuing question is how can I be an ally? How can I help? My time in Colombia has made me appreciate religious diversity, even more so than I did before. While most the country identifies as a Catholic/Christian country, how one lives out their faith there is different based on the individual through education, political participation, giving back to their local communities, and many other ways.

 

Another highlight that I took away from this experience was their approach to nonviolence. In Colombia during this time, part of the national peace agreement had passed, which grants equitable and equal human rights for all. This was a true historical moment for them. One last piece of wisdom that I’ll never forget is that faith is about uncertainty. Similarly, to the United States, many are uncertain of what their future will hold for them. It is not as easy as it sounds, but having a small bit of a hope and/or ounce of faith is how the people in Colombia that were experiencing trauma, homelessness, violence, whatever it may be, continue living the fullest life. Faith through resilience.

Who do you Know?

By Katie Hoffman

 

Who do you know?

 

It is interesting to sit back and think about all of the people we know… do you ever think about your backgrounds and how that has perhaps defined some of the interactions you’ve had with that person? It’s intriguing to ponder how cultures can change and even enhance some of our relationships and allow us to be more altruistic.

 

For me, I think about my living situations through my time at DePaul; each year sharing a home with someone of another faith tradition. My freshman year I lived alone and then with a friend of mine who happens to be Muslim and through our conversations it was easy to note how similar she and I are. My sophomore year, I shared an apartment with a very good friend of mine who is a non-practicing Lutheran and hence, religion and culture affected by religion were not large parts of our relationship but we were still able to share values. Junior year I was lucky enough to live in the Vincent and Louise House–this perhaps was the most rewarding and challenging living situation, especially being the only Jew in a house with seven Catholics, a baptist and a non-denominational Christian.  It was a home in which ideals were always challenged; but with love and the hopes of understanding.

 

Now, as a senior I share an apartment with another Jewish girl and a good friend of mine. One would think it would be a lot easier when considering culture, however it is quite the contrary. However, through our discussions it has allowed my eyes to be opened to truly how different one person may believe and practice their faith tradition and allowed this to be compared to my own experiences; this has made all the difference and has allowed me to appreciate Judaism so much more and it’s multifaceted approaches. This understanding I have begun to apply to learning about others and their cultures and I invite you to try to do the same.

Comunidad Musulmana Ahmadia

By: Kunza Shakil

Living in an unfamiliar land for 10 weeks awakens a spiritual need that cannot be felt in any other way. Being Muslim in Mexico, a nation with a 97% Catholic population draws its own challenges. Your host family does not really know about Islam, Muslims, the Qu’ran, dietary restrictions and the daily prayers. It is all new to them and in a way, this is new to you too. In Chicago the vast majority of people who barely know anything about Islam at least have some idea about it but that is not the case here in Mérida. It is harder to explain your faith in another language that you are still learning but you do it anyway.

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My professor told me about a mosque he found as he was walking one day. I made it a point to visit that mosque at some point before the end of my trip. One Sunday afternoon I was walking downtown with a friend when I saw a woman with a headscarf. I immediately stopped and looked up the building where it read “Comunidad Musulmana Ahmadia” or “Ahmadiyya Muslim Community”. I went inside and looked around and the mosque itself was very simple. There was a small general lounging area for visitors, a musullah to pray, and the office of the director. I had so many questions.

I spoke with the director about the community center and discovered that it was only about two and a half years old. He told me that in the entire Yucatan area, there were only about 100 Muslims. Also, the Ahmadiyya sect in Islam is a fairly small number of people compared to the overall Muslim population in the world and so I was curious as to why Sunni or Shia community centers did not exist. This center in particular was focused on portraying Islam as a peaceful religion and countering the negative narrative that is often portrayed in the media. It was very different than the various Islamic efforts present in Chicago that are both catered to the Muslim and non-Muslim communities. Nevertheless, I think any footprint by a Muslim entity is a positive step in vocalizing the presence of Muslims even in Mexico.

I could not help but think that I was one of the 100 Muslims in the Yucatan Peninsula and that too for only 10 weeks. Although this community center was one that I could not connect to as much as those in Chicago, it still helped me feel a little more spiritually at home. I may be only one Muslim out of very few in this entire region but I still felt like a part of a global community. When surrounded by people of different faiths, it is easy for me to feel like an outsider, different, and forget about the connection I share with my Muslim brothers and sisters worldwide but the experience I had at the Comunidad Musulmana Ahmadia reminded me to never forget these connections no matter how few Muslims there are around me.

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