L-R: Jiin Jeong '21, Aurora Cai '21, Soha Kawtharani '21, and Huzefah Umer '21 

“It’s about how you treat people and how you relate to your community,” said one of the four participants on the All Beliefs Union dinner panel presentation, in describing how she translates her religion into her everyday life. “It reminds you that you are just like everyone else and that you are not alone,” she continued in talking about her relationship with her God.

Her sentiments were mirrored to a large degree by every panelist in the Faith Around the World program, part of the International Student Week’s offerings. The commonalities between the four panelists ranged from how they are grounded by their faith to their traditions of tithing to the religious divisions they observe in their countries precipitated in large part by wars and colonization. Four sophomores, Jiin Jeong from South Korea, Soha Kawtharani from Lebanon, Huzefah Umer from Pakistan, and Aurora Cai from China shared their beliefs and described the various religions found within their countries and how those religions influenced their cultures and society.

The panelists also discussed how religious celebrations sometimes overlapped and were celebrated beyond traditional religious boundaries. Jeong celebrates Christmas as a Christian but commented that in her majority Christian country, many Christians and non-Christians celebrate the birthday of Buddha which, like Christmas, is a national holiday. Kawtharani also affirmed that in Lebanon, many people enjoy both Christian and Muslim holidays.

Cai made the decision to become a Christian as a teenager in China. She said, however, that Confucianism inspired her quite a bit on how she conducts herself and relates to other people. As others also affirmed, Cai pointed to her religion as what gives her courage in her daily life.

Umer addressed the effects of the Partition (of India and Pakistan) on his country’s religion, explaining how British rules had separated the intermingling of religions and how that had set the tone in the present day. Neighborhoods separate those of different faiths, and holidays are not shared between religions. He explained how Islam is a huge part of daily life and even if a family is not religious, it is important to know the Quran. He said that its texts inspire him and offer him tools to navigate life.

In a lighter discussion, the topic of superstitions elicited laughter among the group as each culture’s superstitions seemed equally outrageous. A tip for those studying for exams: don’t eat seaweed, take a shower, or cut your nails or you may forget everything when you get to the exam.

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