In your faith: GCRO’s Religious Emphasis Week at Guilford

While many students at Guilford may not consider themselves religious, most can easily empathize with a story of being pranked by waking up to a giant poster of George W. Bush over your bed.

Luby Casey Campus Ministry visitor Shane Claiborne told this and many other stories as he spoke at the New Garden Friends Meeting Center to help start off Religious Emphasis Week.

The Guilford Community of Religious Observants sponsored its twenty-second annual Religious Emphasis Week, featuring a variety of events from notable speakers to root beer keggers.

“The point is to let folks know what is happening on campus,” said GCRO co-clerk Scott Weiss, senior. “It has a dual purpose to coordinate between groups and to generate awareness on all the religious activities.”

One of the highlights of the week was Claiborne’s talk on “the relevance of Christianity in today’s world.”

As a popular Christian author and a leader in the “New Monasticism” movement, Claiborne travels the globe, writing and speaking to campuses and denominations.

“I think the world has seen enough extremists for hate,” said Claiborne. “I think the world is longing to see Christians again that look like Jesus. Let it be our prayer tonight that we may look to be more like the things God wants us to become.”

Claiborne’s talk included a number of funny and insightful stories, stressing the importance of humor and community.

“He certainly is not the prototype for what one thinks of when they imagine ‘evangelical Christian’, what with his dumpster clothes, long dreadlocks, passion for peace and justice issues, and lifestyle of voluntary simplicity,” said Director of the Friends Center and Campus Ministry Coordinator Max Carter. “He made an instant connection with the young adult generation that is so turned-off by the hypocrisy and lack of integrity of much of ‘mainstream’ religion these days.”

The week also featured a number of other speakers who shared their views on faith, including three teachers from Sikkim, India. The teachers were sent to visit the U.S. by their school, the Taktse International School.

“We see what we can learn from the U.S. (teaching) system,” said language arts teacher Bhwana Yhapa. “We try to take the best from the Western culture and mix it with the best of the East.”

While all three women are Hindu, where they live in Northern India has a mixture of Muslims, Christians, Buddhists and Hindus.

The group compared religion and culture over tea and cookies in the Hut, sharing different gods and symbols. Shradha Chhetoi, a language arts and computer teacher, described one of her favorite goddesses, Durga.

“I think Durga’s eight arms are symbolic of the different roles a woman can play,” said Chhetoi.
Other events throughout the week ensured that such open discussion about different religions continued.

Inspired by Todd Drake’s photography exhibits on Muslims’ self portraits, the Muslim Students Association held a panel on Jan. 25, entitled “Me, Myself as a Muslim.” The seven students on the panel discussed their identities and experiences as Muslims living in America.

“If I were to do a self portrait of myself, I would be wearing jeans, a traditional Pakistani shirt and a head scarf,” said MSA President Anum Shakir, a junior. “It would show how I am living in two cultures, American and Pakistani.”

A main talking point on the panel was the change of perception and treatment of Muslims after 9/11. “One Step Forward, Two Steps Back,” a video produced by two students on the panel, juniors Nigel Espey and Sara Hussein, used personal stories to address how Muslims have been bullied.

“A lot of people don’t know what a Muslim is,” said Shakir. “Their opinion is based on the news, which is one-sided.”

All of the students on the panel, however, described positive experiences at Guilford. MSA plans to host more events to continue involving the community.

As Religious Emphasis Week continued, other events focused more on making individuals consider their spirituality, like the “Storytelling and the Sacred” presentation by Continuing Part-time Lecturer in Religious Studies Amanda Mbuvi.

With Cheerwine and cheese, students and teachers met, discussing spirituality and literature.
“Sacred and storytelling is not just about the class,” said Mbuvi. “It affects the way that we come to things.”

Religious Emphasis Week also featured social events such as a Vespers showing of Monty Python’s “The Life of Brian” and an “Am I the Only One?” with root beer and Cheerwine kegs in the Hut.

With so many religious groups on campus, from Pagan Mysticism to Taizé, Religious Emphasis Week provided time for the community to explore and share their views.

“Religious Emphasis Week is an opportunity to get off the bench and enter the game to build community,” said IFP Gift Discernment Coordinator Frank Massey in the GCRO Caw. “That engagement is the centripetal force that holds us together.”

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