Students, faculty, staff, and members of the Indianapolis community filled the Mother Theresa Hackelmeier Memorial Library auditorium on Thursday, February 4 to have a conversation about Islam and Christianity.
The event, organized by the Office of International Programs, aimed at deconstructing stereotypes about Islam and highlighting the similarities between Christianity and Islam.
“We have such an opportunity to learn about cultures, faiths, and traditions from our international students who represent more than 20 countries around the world,” said Julia Wells, international student support specialist.
Local Imam Abdul Karim of the Indiana Department of Corrections spoke first, exploring Arabic phrases that are a part of Islam and explaining what each meant, pointing out the similarities in ideology and the misconceptions propagated by the media and extremist groups that do not represent Islam. His examples included “as-salamu alaykum”, which translates to “peace be upon you” and “Allahu Akbar” which translates to “God is the greatest.” He encouraged the crowd to think of the world as “one human family,” and not to categorize by social constructions like race, color, or class.
Chris Dixon, professor in the theology department at Marian University, spoke next and talked about the importance of reaching beyond tolerance and working together as a human family. He said, “Tolerance is not our calling. We must go beyond that. We are to be a community of people.”
Most compelling was a panel of four Marian University undergraduate and graduate Muslim students. The students were asked a series of questions including, “What has your experience as a Muslim student at Marian University been like?” and “What is the biggest misconception about Islam?”
After the event, Laila Mossa-Basha, a second-year medical student in the panel discussion, talked about her initial hesitation to be a part of the panel.
“I believed those misconceptions were engrained into many minds in American society, so I thought I wouldn’t be able to get through to most of the people in the audience,” said Mossa-Basha. “However, after the incredible feedback we received from the event, I now understand why I chose to go to Marian University. Everyone was very open-minded and very responsive to what we had to say. I am grateful for being given the opportunity to share my faith. I truly enjoyed meeting the staff, faculty and students on campus who share similar morals and beliefs as me. It is an honor to attend a university that promotes such important dialogue and discussion.”
More Alike Than Different kicked off the Faith and Ideas Series, a series that strives to provide unique and creative opportunities for Marian University students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends to promote intellectually informed and robust experiences regarding important issues at the intersection of faith, reason, and culture.
“The Faith and Ideas series was the perfect avenue for this important conversation,” said Wells.
“The Franciscan vision of Catholic education always happens in the context of relationship, thus our Franciscan sponsorship values of Dignity of the Individual and that of Reconciliation,” Adam Setmeyer, interim vice president of Mission and Ministry, said at the start of the event. “Tonight’s event lives up to those values, captures well the dialogue from the Vatican Council, and all pontiffs who have followed.”
The next Faith and Ideas event is also a part of the Bishop Simon Brutè Lecture Series, “Metaphysics and Money: Charity to the Poor and the Spiritual Life” on Monday, February 22 at 7 p.m.