February 9, 2011

Religious organizations reach out to campus

With six on-campus religious organizations, Knox attempts to bring spirituality to campus, but students still work to maintain their faith. Christians, Jews and Muslims share a devotion to their faith and the willingness to work to bring it to campus.

The on-campus Catholic organization, Newman Club, is one way to do that. President of the Newman Club, junior Chelsea Coventry, is responsible for running meetings and setting up for mass. The weekly mass is held in Wilson House and is presided over by a visiting priest. Newman Club also has weekly meetings and has reached out to the Galesburg community by making and donating fleece blankets and rosaries.

According to Coventry, Newman Club consists of 10 to 12 people in mass, with a smaller group in meetings. She described it as a tight group that has “a sense of community and the sense of peace that comes with practicing a religion.”

Coventry described her faith as having grown stronger since attending Knox simply because it is more difficult. Coventry came from a Catholic family and a Catholic school in which about 75 percent of the graduating class shared the religion. She explained that it’s easy to go through the motions when at home, but here it is a conscious effort.

“Getting out and choosing to do it strengthens my belief,” Coventry said.

Hillel Club, Knox’s Jewish organization is where freshman Allison Diamond found a Jewish community. Diamond came from a suburb of Cleveland, a predominately Jewish area in which 50 to 60 percent of her graduating class was Jewish. Her hometown contained seven synagogues and the Maltz Museum of Jewish History, yet she came to Knox where “my roommate had never met a Jewish person,” Diamond said.

Orientation week was particularly important for Diamond as she celebrated Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year. She was relieved to find Hillel Club, but still missed the larger groups. Hillel Club has about 20 active members, according to co-president sophomore Anna Goldbeck, with double that on the mailing list.

Diamond was surprised to find herself being religious.

“I’m just more aware that I’m being religious, but it’s not that I do it more. I just notice it more,” she said.

Like Coventry, Diamond found religion to be a more deliberate and thought-out process here than it was back at home.

Her own beliefs are not the only thing she has noticed. Diamond said though it hasn’t been a major issue, she has encountered the occasional anti-Semitic joke at Knox, which has been a major change. “I’ve never had to deal with not being in the majority,” Diamond said. In spite of the occasional offense, Diamond was happy to be back with a Jewish community.

Though Knox does not offer the religious benefits of a larger university, such as Jewish fraternities, Hillel Club serves as a community for people like Diamond. Diamond’s main critique was that “more people should know about Hillel.”

Sophomore Rana Tahir, originally from Indonesia, has also adjusted to becoming a religious minority. Though she has encountered offensive jokes, Tahir has learned to dismiss them, saying that, “It only hurts if somebody I know does it.” When coming from a stranger, Tahir understood that the hatred comes from ignorance.

The primary frustration on this subject was the condescending nature within academia. Tahir said that at times “My education is discounted because of religion or nationality.” Overall, her focus as co-president of Islam Club is to eradicate religious ignorance on Knox’s campus.

Islam Club includes seven to eight members, according to Tahir, with a goal of inter-religious conversation. Islam Club does not aim to “convince the other, it’s more like sharing perceptions” of faith, Tahir said.

Overall, Tahir has found the campus to be hushed on the topic of religion. Islam Club held an open forum in the attempt to enlighten students on multiple religions and was met with little response. Tahir wished to talk about religion openly.

“You can’t hate or love or believe in something if you don’t know it,” she said.

In senior Sarah Juist’s hometown, religion was a “standard thing everyone did whether or not they believed it.” Now at Knox, Juist has been forced to make the individual decisions necessary to uphold a belief system.

As a member of the non-denominational Christian club, Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, Juist found comfort in the group of 20-30 active members. “I think Intervarsity has really shaped me as an individual more than anything else at Knox,” Juist said.

On-campus religious clubs also include the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Pagan Student Alliance. Tahir summed it up by saying that it does not matter what you believe or how closely you follow religion, but “just the fact that it exists is beautiful.”

Samantha Paul
Samantha Paul is a senior double majoring in creative writing and Spanish. She previously served as both a news reporter and a copy editor for TKS. During the summer of 2012, Sam served as press chair of a literacy brigade in El Salvador. She has also interned with both Bloom Magazine and The Galesburg Register-Mail. At Knox, Sam is an organizational editor for Catch magazine.

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