On the night of Oct. 13, a small group of students gathered together in Sorum House to discuss anti-religious violence in the wake of the Umpqua Community College shooting.
Hosted by the Interfaith Youth Core, the event, which was open to the entire campus community, sought to have a discussion centered on anti-religious violence, why it happens, and how it could possibly be stopped.
Director of Spiritual Life and Campus Protestant Minister Viki Brooks was unable to attend the event. Brooks was in Salt Lake City, Utah, attending the Parliament of World’s Religion.
The event Brooks attended is hosted once every seven years and focuses on specific problems of the world and how to tackle them. This year’s conference focused on sustainability and was attended by more than 70 countries.
However, Brooks did comment on the event held here at Union, saying events like the anti-religious violence talk are not only important to Union but to humanity as a whole, stating “Talks like this allow people to confront prejudice.” She then went on to say, “A lot of the violence stems from ignorance.”
IFYC, a young club on campus, wants to combat these prejudices and help enlighten the community on these issues. The anti-religious discussion aimed to do just that.
The intimate setting was relaxed and gave students a chance to express their feelings while eating donuts and drinking hot cider. One of the students at the event was Sharmeen Azher ’17, a biology and anthropology double major.
The talk was not limited to anti-religious violence alone. Azher commented that the talk generated a lot of discussion about topics on many minds today, including gun control, mental illness, systemic racism and discrimination.
A highlight for Azher was the discussion on response to violence. He shared that he “was particularly interested in (the) conversation about the appropriate response to violence and how easy it is to become desensitized to hate.”
This open discussion is not only relevant to current issues in the news, but also vastly important. The increase of domestic terrorist attacks is escalating.
Brooks commented that the media likes to use a “broad brush” when discussing such hate-filled attacks, which was discussed during the IFYC event.
The students shared their thoughts on how the media responds to attacks dependent upon religion and race.
One student noted that when a white person is the attacker, he or she is often labeled as having mental health issues. The student then went on to say he noticed that if the same type of attack is done by an African American or Muslim, they are labeled by the media as a terrorist.
While this is just one complex issue, Azher did say what she “appreciated most was the brainstorming to figure out what we as students can do.”
The discussion was centered on anti-religious violence but ended with the group discussing what can be done on campus to bring more awareness and get more students involved in issues, like media representation, that affect everyone’s lives.
Azher has high hopes for IFYC and what it could accomplish. “As ambitious as it might sound, I see IFYC as a catalyst for a lot of social, tangible change on campus. In a lot of ways, it means facilitating other groups who are more connected to certain issues and brainstorming ways to make a dent in Union’s consciousness a little more,” she stated.
IFYC, in her eyes and those of other members of the club, wants to bring talks on identity, community and diversity of world views.
It is tough for the club to get the discussions be appealing to the entire community due to the sensitivity of the topics. Azher even said she was a little disappointed that the talk was not attended by more people because, she said, the fewer people, the fewer insights that can be shared. But she did think all the students who attended benefited from the experience.
The club will continue to further its aim of helping the campus better understand the world around them through the hosting of events surrounding topics that, while hard to talk about, they hope to make as engaging and appealing to the community as possible.
IFYC also held the candlelight vigil out front of the library on Oct. 8. The group’s next event Nov. 4 from 5-7 p.m. and will be focused on exploring mysticism in religion and spirituality. Several mini areas will be set up to allow students to learn about such topics as Kabbala (Jewish mysticism), meditation, chanting, the Wiccan tradition and possibly Sufi (Muslim) dervishes.