God has different faces to Campbell panel

Buies Creek, N.C.- Members of the Hindu, Islamic and Christian faiths discovered that their religions have many similarities when a student panel on world religions spoke at Campbell University Worship, a weekly gathering of students which seeks to nurture the spiritual life of students from a Christian worldview and help to build a strong sense of community, on Wednesday, Feb. 24.

Sponsored by Campus Ministry and the World Religions and Global Cultures Center, the panel was created to teach students how to communicate with people of different faiths.

Divinity student Heather Webb, a liaison for International students and facilitator with the World Religions and Global Cultures Center at Campbell, put the panel together and directed the discussion. Each panel member represented a specific religion. Indian students Kamal Kumar Soan, Niharika Chaganti and Pinali Vasani represented Hinduism. Mohammad Mujalled from Saudi Arabia and Saima Chaudhry and Sadia Huma from Pakistan represented Islam. Christianity was represented by Gerald Katayi from Zambia, Baillie Locke from Canada and Jamie Chong from Malaysia.

Hinduism differs from Islam and Christianity in that it is not monotheistic in one way, but Hindu student Kamal Kumar Soan explained that although Hindu gods may have different names such as Vishnu or Krishna, they are all incarnations of the same God. Like Christians and Muslims, Hindus also have a sacred text and social laws by which they relate to each other.

“God is like one of my best friends or a parent,” responded Hindu student Pinali Vasani. “We find God in every living thing. That is why we don’t kill animals.”

Muslim student Saima Chaudhry discussed the five pillars of the Islamic faith: shahadah, the basic creed or tenet of Islam which must be recited; salat, a ritual prayer which must be performed five times a day; sawm, fasting during Ramadan; zakat, alms-giving based on accumulated wealth; and hajj, a pilgrimage to Mecca that all Muslims should make once in their lifetime if possible.

“Besides these rituals that must be performed, we are free to worship God anytime we want to,” said Mohammad Mujalled. “God walks me through everything in my life, from the biggest to the smallest situations. He keeps me from doing bad and helps me do good.”

“When I do something that pleases the Lord, I feel happy and good,” said Muslim Sadia Huma.

The students discussed other topics such as how God helps them find fulfillment, holy books such as the Bible and the Qur’an and the religious holidays they observe.

“There are threads of similarity running through all of this discussion,” said Webb. “For instance, we all pray. It’s okay to talk about prayer with people of other faiths. We all look to God for guidance in our lives and each of our religions teaches us to help each other.”

Student Tamara Fontanez, a junior from Puerto Rico, was struck by how many ways in which the religions are alike. “They all have the same goals,” she said. “They each want peace, to worship God and to love each other.”

“The panel discussion was a wonderful opportunity for students to learn what other religions believe and how that relates to their Christian faith,” said Campus Minister Faithe Beam. “It is important to be able to dialogue with our religious neighbors in a spirit of love.”

An extension of the Campbell Divinity School, the World Religions and Global Cultures Center provides teaching and learning experiences about global cultures and religions through classes for credit, seminars, workshops and conferences. Participants include Divinity School students, churches, church leaders, missionaries, leaders of missionary agencies and members of the community. In addition to other educational opportunities, the center provides instruction for students who desire to follow a vocational calling to understand the cultures and religions of the world from a Christian perspective.

Photo Copy: From left, Kamal Kumar Soan, Niharika Chaganti, Pinali Vasani, Saima Chaudhry and Sadia Huma participate in a student panel on world religions at Campbell University.