On Monday April 9, The Voices at Geneseo Project hosted a discussion titled “Faith Under Fire,” in which students from various religious backgrounds spoke about how they maintain faith at a secular institution. According to junior Jacqueline Tang, programming intern for the Multi-Cultural Organization Space for Activities, Inclusion and Collaboration, the Voices Project creates programs that promote diversity on campus in order to tell an individual’s story.
Tang said she felt it was important to seek out the stories of the religious groups, which add diversity to the campus.
“I think one of the lesser highlighted aspects of college experience is religion,” she said.
The Geneseo chapters of Brothers and Sisters in Christ, Hillel, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Newman Catholic Campus Ministry and the Wesley Foundation were all in attendance.
The discussion began with a brief introduction of each organization and what students felt their roles were on campus. The overall consensus was that although the major focus of each organization is religious service and activities, they also host more social events to interact and to get to know those who share the same faith.
“Some of it is completely secular where we have the opportunity to get to know people that share certain parts of your faith … certain parts of your identity,” said sophomore Ayelet Harel of Hillel. “It’s an opportunity to make friends as a group.”
Students said that although Student Association does not fund religious organizations, the groups still have access to money through various outlets such as alumni and national organizations, Campus Auxiliary Services and Geneseo Late Knight.
Multiple students said that they were upset by the attack on faith they experienced in some classroom settings. Senior Lauren Abdallah of InterVarsity said she remembered a humanities professor who tried to disprove everything in the Bible.
“There was one day where he said, ‘If you believe this, you are not smart.’” Abdallah said. “It was really strange and awkward.”
Students also discussed how religion is perceived in different contexts and the various views within religions. They also shared that sometimes people wrongly assume that they are experts in their faith and that this often determines their political views.
“At first I was a little wary of the potential for some awkward conversation, but [the discussion] turned out completely different,” wrote junior Jaclyn Vetrano – a member of the Voices Project – via email.
Vetrano also said she felt the discussion was beneficial to the Voices Project because the students explained how religion plays a large part in how their life stories are shaped.
“Everyone definitely walked out of there learning something new,” she said.