Religion and Politics: What Do I Believe?

By: Olivia Hollman

Alright, Olivia. What are you doing here? Don’t you know that those are the two things you should avoid talking about? For 21 years you’ve avoided talking too passionately about or taking too much of a stand. Why change that now? Because it’s been 21 years and I need to stand up for something; I can’t keep on “going with the flow”, acting like a coward. So here we go.

My life started in the red state of Arkansas and I have been raised in a conservative, Catholic family. In 2005, my family moved to the blue state of Illinois, but anyone who knows the political climate of the state knows that it’s only blue because of Chicago. A rural city in southern Illinois definitely falls within the red realm of the state. Having no interest in politics and developing my own opinions, I went along with my family’s conservative views. Liberalism and the Democratic party had it wrong and that was all I needed to know.

The stage is now set for my transition to college at the largest Catholic university in the nation in a very diverse, liberal, Democratic city.

I found myself no longer living in a mostly white, Christian, heteronormative, conservative small town. I began to encounter races, cultures, faiths, beliefs, sexual orientations, gender identities, and values different than my own. In the beginning, I thought “Wow. Look at how my worldview has broadened because I’ve seen people different than me.” And that is where the “experience” ended.

As I began to see my friends and people close to me taking stances on issues, I started asking myself what I believed and what I stood for. This has been something I’ve shaped over the past 3 years (and will continue to shape) due to my friends’ views, faiths, expressions of Catholicism, conversations around events on campus, and my Vincentian education.

So what do I believe? What do I stand for?

I believe:

in one God.

nutrient-rich food and clean drinking water are basic human rights.

society needs to stop sexualizing women.

that just because you’re white, doesn’t mean you’re right.

it is not enough just to do something, it must be done well.

love is for everyone and heteronormative and non-heteronormative commitments to love should be universally accepted.

a country founded on the principle of religious freedom that calls itself a “melting pot” cannot choose which religions to grant freedom or which races to accept.

everyone should have access to shelter, especially from inclement weather and harsh climates.

one doesn’t need to follow Jesus “to be saved”.

I am not persecuted or discriminated against because I am Christian.

the death penalty, abortion, and euthanasia are fundamentally wrong because human life is sacred.

I have privilege because I am white and the “accepted racial majority”.

Vincentian simplicity (transparency) is important in relationships—work, friends, significant others, etc.

gender is not a “male or female”, black and white identity.

as human beings, we have a responsibility to address the needs of our fellow humans.

Jesus’ resurrected, spiritual body and blood are actually present in the Eucharist.

all lives matter, but not all lives are respected, honored, and valued, which is why movements like Black Lives Matter is necessary and crucial.

I must use my privilege to fight for and stand up for those who do not have the benefit of privilege.

sexual assault and rape are not the fault of the victim.

everyone should have access to higher education, regardless of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation or financial status.

free speech does not encompass hate speech; if it disrespects the life of someone else, you should not have the right to say it.

people don’t “choose” their gender to “act out”, but choose to live out their authentic gender expression.

the Catholic Church is not universally “female or noncisgender friendly”.

everyone should have access to affordable healthcare.

everything can be prayer.

sexual orientation is not just classified by “heterosexual” and there is no “wrong” orientation.

These are absolute truths for me; I firmly believe there are no universal absolute truths. This is also not a complete, static list. It’s going to be changed and edited as I grow and my beliefs and values evolve. But for now, this helps me know who I am—A liberal Catholic firmly rooted in the Vincentian spirit. Who are you? What do you believe?

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Give, Even If You Only Have a Little

By: Melanie Kulatilake

We think that giving falls in the hand of those who have money and power. They have more access to give to those in need then let’s say a college student. The Buddha would argue otherwise. Giving falls in the hands of everyone.

How can a person give when they are poor? The truth is that there is always something to give. What if the poor person lives off of the minimum wage in America and has a household of three. How does one expect them to be able to give in this type of circumstance? Here is the solution:

  • What you give to others does not always have to be new
  • It does not have to be a material item
  • It can be a priceless action

When you give something to others it does not have to be new. You can always give away an old clothing that might not fit you or a family member anymore. Was it worn before? Yes. But, if the person really needs that material they are usually not too concerned whether or not the item was worn. In this instance giving is for any of those who have material items to give.

What you give does not have to a material item. What you give can always be a service. If you don’t have any material to give then you always have the option of service. You can help an elderly bring their bags in. You can work at a food pantry. There are several opportunities where you can help another without having to give away any material items.

Okay. Well what if you don’t have a material item to give and you don’t have time to volunteer. What can you give then? You can give something that is priceless and timeless. One thing that is always an option when it comes to giving is just having a conversation with a person on the L on the way to work. That doesn’t waste your time and you can really make someone’s day. What if you don’t have time for even a conversation? You always have the opportunity to change someone’s day by smiling to them. Let them know that you acknowledge them and that you care. That is something that everyone can give to anyone.

The next time you think that you can’t give to someone else in need because you have “too little” I would ask you to think again. There is always something to give. It just might take creativity.

Speak Up and Say “NO” to Islamophobia

 

By: Shourouk Abdalla

I am instantly scared of the backlash on Muslims worldwide after the explosions in Paris. I’m already seeing Muslim friends of mine asking their Facebook friends to not correlate these attacks with Muslims or Islam. It is not even confirmed yet that ‘ISIS’ committed these attacks, and they probably did but please dear friends know that you DO NOT have to defend yourself. You alone should be living proof to your friends that terrorism has nothing to do with your religion.

I’d like to believe that the world is past this silly “jihadist, extreme Muslims” rhetoric but it’s not. So it makes sense to automatically want to share that the religion of Islam has nothing to do with this. However do so in a more strategic way. Help them get passed what the media doesn’t want the general viewers to get passed. Help them question what the government doesn’t want the general public to know. Ask them to think critically before being feed into media/gov prescribed islamaphobia. Inform them that “ISIL” has been terrorizing Muslims in Syria and Iraq since the group miraculously formed. Ask them to do research on the “history” of ISIS. Or it’s relation to various western governments and what could a world power benefit from these groups. Ask them to consider the fact that these extreme terrorist groups could be an inevitable result of European colonization. Colonization that has lead to a deteriorated Middle East region. Colonization that has instigated and manipulated wars among neighboring countries and created self-hate among these people through western supremacy and neo-colonialism. Colonization that has made these people dependent on the West in order to survive. Ask them to try to understand where it’s coming from and why. We can’t act surprised when there are terrorists attacks among western nations when years ago these countries were the attackers first. It is what it is and that still is no excuse for any type of attack.

Now if your friends need proof from Muslim religious scholars that the Quran doesn’t teach this then tell them to search the internet! Simple as that. There are thousands of religious leaders & scholars who have publically denounced the actions of these terrorist groups and have provided proof as well as what Islam says on the topics of killings, murder etc.

On to another important note.  #PrayforBeirut. #PrayforYemen. #PrayforSyria. #PrayforNumerousAfricanCountries… the list is endless.

Yes, pray for them all. If you only begin to mourn once it’s a trend on social media that all your friends jumped onto or because it’s all over the news then please be concerned for your own being. Very little were going to talk about Lebanon if it wasn’t for Paris. At least we’re getting somewhere however do note that selective mourning and sympathy is offensive and these attacks in Paris should be a reminder of the horrific events going on in the world and a wake up call for everyone, ESPECIALLY  to ISIS.

To friends who say it is not fair that people only care about France when things like this happen everyday. Indeed it is sad that everyone gets a quick update about horrific attacks only when it’s in a first world country and all the other countries get kicked aside. However it is fair for French to care about France as it is for Arabs to care about the Arab world. What makes it not fair is the controlled media that gets to pick and choose what to share and what to hype up. I HIGHLY suggest that everyone finds their own trustworthy source of information for global ongoings and stray away from government/power controlled media & news outlets. I stopped watching television years ago for a reason. While it is unclear why there is a constant series of terror and unfortunatee events all I have to say is that we must stay awake and keep an eye out for the source of everything.

The perpetrators of these horrendous attacks must be held accountable, apprehended, and brought to justice. Those brutal murders will have to answer to the One who created them. So even if there is no justice in this world, I find my comfort knowing that. “ “

 

*To my friends in Paris please mark yourself safe on Facebook or message me, I’m deeply concerned about your safety…

 

*To friends who don’t know, over 50 were killed in the “Paris of the Middle East.” Beirut, Lebanon.

 

#NoToTerrorism

Activism and Faith

 

Faith and activism.png

By: Shourouk Abdalla

Personally, before entering Depaul I have always been a person who questions ‘what must be done’. A person who fights injustices in everyday situations. This is an Islamic principle that I have grown to know very well, the Prophet PBUH said if you see something wrong, fix it with your hand, and if you cant fix it with your hand, speak of it with your tongue, and if you can’t do that, dislike it inside your heart and that is the weakest of faith. So as a Muslim we must oppose evil in an active and principled nuanced way, we must actively help, assist, and figure out ‘what must be done’. And this is the question St. Vincent spent his life answering. St. Vincent’s faith gave him a vision of how the world should look, in much of the same way so does Islam, therefore acting upon faith is a common ground and can invite anyone of all faiths and backgrounds to the Vincentian family and its values.

This reminds me of a Quick story: when the Prophet PBUH saw a man in a street and asked the man he was with, what do you think of this man, the man he was with responded by saying he is the noblestest of men and any woman would take his hand in marriage in a heartbeat. He later asked another man, ‘what do you think of this man’ and the man said this man?! He is the poorest of all muslims, and no women would ever accept his hand in marriage, no woman would ever consider him for marriage and he also added that no one will ever listen to him when he speaks because he is not worth listening too. Then the prophet pbuh said this man has more value than the noblest man and the entire mighty earth combined than to the wealthy man you compare him to.
Only today I realized that this is a Vincentian value. What I like about St. Vincent is that he didn’t like the statuesque, he saw countless men, women, infants and children living at the margins, people who had gone hungry, people experiencing homelessness, victims of war, orphaned children, and elderly left alone, people who did not receive adequate health care, no educational, employment, or economical opportunities. And so he tried to work upon that and figure out ‘what must be done’.

So this all inspires me, and reassures me I’m on some right path in my career and life.

You don’t have to be an activist to uphold this, just think of St.Vincents values within every day actions. Actively do good. Teaches you how to lead.

 

Hatred: One of the Three Poisons

Hatred

By: Melanie Kulatilake

“[They] abused me, [They] struck me, [They] overpowered me, [They] robbed me.” Those who harbor such thoughts do not still their hatred.

“[They] abused me, [They] struck me, [They] overpowered me, [They] robbed me.” Those who do not harbor such thoughts still their hatred.

            -Quote from the Buddha in the Dhamapada Chapter 1

The experience of abuse, being stricken, being overpowered, or robbed is an experience anyone can have at some point in their life. These experiences may seem like causes for hatred towards the one that has done you wrong but, Buddha argues that this will only make you feel unhappy in the end. As people, we hold onto angers from the pettiest things to the most life changing events. The quote above, within the context of Buddhist ideals, means that all hatred no matter how justified it may seem is damaging to ones sanity and happiness.

It is important to understand this quote from the perspective of a practicing Buddhist. In Buddhism there is no right or wrong way to live or act. The Buddha is understood only as a human being and therefore recognizes that he has no right to tell us how to act or behave. The Buddha believes that you have to come up with realizations of life from your own experiences. That is why the Buddha simply states and does not demand that you “still your hatred.” It is important that you recognize yourself the damages hatred causes.

Hatred: the strong resentment you hold for another. We seek to justify our hatred. However, the Buddha would argue that there is no justified hatred. Hatred can be caused by many things, form the smallest acts to the most extreme offensive. WE can all imagine the smallest things that cause distain towards another. In such extreme offenses like physical abuse, molestation, robbery, verbal insult, and mental destruction, hatred may seem justified. Some might argue that a person who faces such dire abuse is justified in their hatred because they have been extremely wronged. Yet, Buddhist would still argue that hatred is never warranted.  The one who hates is the person who hurts the most in the end rather than the one being hated.

Harboring hatred is physically and psychologically damaging to oneself. Scientists have proven time and time again that holding onto anger generates toxic chemicals in your body. The renowned Doctor Davis Suzuki says in “‘The Sacred Balance’, ‘condensed molecules from breath exhaled from verbal expressions of anger, hatred, and jealousy, contain toxins. Accumulated over 1 hr, these toxins are enough to kill 80 guinea pigs!’”. Though hatred can be physically damaging it often feels right.

Focusing on the positives when someone is acting in a way that is inhuman is not an easy task and nor should it ever be considered one. Reaching the understanding that hatred is not healthy for you is difficult. A Tibetan Monk by the name of Palden Gyatso was imprisoned for 33 years by the Chinese. He faced unspeakable tortures by the guards who had no respect for him as a human being. In his memoir he reflects, “when I was being tortured by my guards, I had immense hatred against them because I was being hurt. But, as a religious person, after the event I could reflect on what had happened, and I could see that those who inflicted torture did so out of their own ignorance. As a religious person I have to sit back and ask myself, what is all this? Buddhist teachings say, don’t let your calm be disturbed and do not respond to anger with anger.’” He realized that more hatred would not solve his problem. The only way for him to attain peace was to observe his circumstances and find a solution. He chose to no let hatred control him.

Sometimes we may find it difficult to relate our actions to religious leaders like monk Gyatso because we may not practice our religion in such depth. The Buddha teaches that giving up hatred and finding inner peace should be a reality of being a human. Alice Sebold is a rape victim and she realized that in order for her to live a happy life she would have to let go of her hatred towards her attacker. Alice struggled to tell her attacker “I forgive you,”… I said what I had to. I would die by pieces to save myself from real death.” She realized she would slowly kill herself on the inside if she never let go of her anger.

How you react to a situation is what you have control over. You have the ability to still your hatred. Holding onto your anger only hurts you in the end. Buddha’s message is that you deserve a life where you can move on and find happiness by letting go of hate. Letting go of hatred, thereby, making room for the positive aspects of life will lead to inner peace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Being an Interfaith Scholar means to Me

 

Dialgoeu

By: Shourouk Abdalla

In a world as chaotic as today where people shun others because of their differences, interfaith dialogue is necessary. Focusing on what makes us different creates a lack of communication thus more space for large and negative assumptions about each other. Being from the Middle East, I sure do know a thing or two about religious divide, however, I believe that is out of ignorance of each others faith and people dehumanizing each other. Everybody, and I mean everyone, has engaged in interfaith dialogue here at DePaul. It happens all the time, as humans we are in a constant flow of interactions and citizens of today are much more connected to each other than people centuries ago. So just because you did not know that one guy you talked to in your Bio lab the other day was a Muslim or Buddhist doesn’t mean you’ve never met a Muslim or Buddhist before.

As an Egyptian, I put a strong importance on people of different faiths coming together.  Muslim Egyptians take pride in their Christian brothers and sisters as Christian Egyptians do the very same. This is one of my favorite aspects of Egypt and humanity as a whole because seeing people of different faiths hold hands and protect each other, especially in areas of conflict, is one of the most beautiful sights to see and experiences to be apart of.

Being an Interfaith scholar to me means I get to openly represent and uphold my Islamic faith in an acceptive environment while learning about and experiencing other faiths. Even though Chicago is a global city filled with worldly citizens who are open to differences because they are used to it, this is not the case all over America. My faith specifically, is constantly hated on by the media and actively attacked in the streets on a regular basis here in America. I’m here to show what an average day college Muslim girl looks like. It is more than important to have interfaith dialogue, as humans we should be obligated to because that simple understanding of each other and acceptance would make the world a much better place than where we’re at today.

What We Do: Interfaith scholars create a space for weekly interfaith dialogue where we openly discuss our faiths, share prayers, explain traditions, and talk about our own personal experiences. Besides hosting large-scale inter-religious campus events we are also open to attending and facilitating any group if a Professor needs a student to talk about a certain topic to their class or if students have their own personal questions.

 

The Significance of Adolescence

never easy

By: Elijah Obasanya

Sometimes I think going through life can be analogous to getting steamrolled by a truck. It sounds rather harsh, but it is definitely the truth. Not to say that life is a daily struggle, but it sure does seem like it for a lot of folks in this world. I’ve gone through a lot in my life, and I think that it is rather important to understand that the smallest of factors, can have the most dramatic effect on someone. From my perspective, there was a multitude of factors that have affected my life, however I would like to focus on one time in particular: adolescence.
Adolescence for me was like oxygen in a vacuum, fire in outer space, or almost like a fresh foods grocery store in a predominantly black community. It was nonexistent, a fantasy, an illusion that kept true adolescence consistently eluded from me. I’ve always thought that I had an acceptable or normal adolescence. It is hilarious to think about this because it has become crystal clear that it was so nonexistent to the extent that I was completely unaware of what adolescence even meant. Up until very recently, adolescence meant simply living and going through the motions of teenage years. Hilarious right? I was so lost on what true adolescence meant, that I was unable to even determine the quality of my adolescence.
There are a variety of reasons as to why I consider my adolescence nonexistent, however I would rather talk about how it has led to the person that I am today, and the person I’m steadily growing into being. It all started with a self-assessment. I am unaware of when it happened exactly, but it is something that has definitely been occurring more and more recently. I began to think about who I am, the person I want to be, and where exactly I want to go in life. Not in the vein of occupation or life goals, but more so on the type of person I am, the values that I want to hold dear, and the people I consider to be vital in my life. If I were to answer these questions today, one would only need to look up at the stars in the night sky to get a sense of what the answers would be. Beautiful, but a scattershot. Seemingly disordered, and completely unorganized.
It was at this moment that I began to realize that I’ve only truly begun to live through my adolescence, my real adolescence. My teenage years was such an ordeal that I realized I couldn’t possibly fit an adolescence in the chaos that was life at the time. A rose tinted perspective would be one that is joyful of the fact that adolescence has at least begun. Many people go through life without contemplating who they are, what their top values should be, what they would stand for, and what they would die for.
Though my answers to these questions would look like the night sky, a jumbled series of stars with seemingly no direction and order, underneath the mess is gravity. An underlying force that has kept the stars in the same motions and positions spanning from thousands of years in the past, and will continue for thousands of years into the future. To fully complete my adolescence, all I need is to sift through the confusion and uncertainty of who I am. I say this because ultimately I know that the answers to these questions have been there all along. Just waiting for me to find it.

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