Embrace diversity

May 5th, 2011

With John Carroll University being a prestigious Jesuit Catholic University, you wouldn’t think there would be much faith diversity.  Coming from years of Catholic school background, I wasn’t really immersed in a community with different faiths and religions before becoming a part of the JCU community.

Though our campus seems to predominantly practice Catholic and Jesuit tradition, our community is filled with different faith practices. It is incredible that with various faith backgrounds, students at JCU have seemed to form such a closely connected community. I think it’s great that students at our university can put such differences aside to come together and make our environment a better place.

There are many great aspects about JCU, but one of the most significant is the acceptance of other students from different faith backgrounds. This is more than religious tolerance or simply religious recognition; it is religious acceptance and religious compliance. We have faith leadership groups on campus in which students of different faiths come together to talk about both their similarities and differences, and acknowledge how they can live and work together each day to make our campus a better place for everyone involved in the JCU community.

Diversity is not always easy to accept. It challenges us to sometimes travel beyond our comfort zone, which can be one of the most difficult things to do. It can be so easy to get caught up in our own customs and traditions—many times because that is what we are most comfortable with. However, it is important to recognize that through the faith diversity on campus, we have been presented with an opportunity to learn from others.

As “men and women serving others,” various opportunities come up in students’ lives in which we have a chance to help others who come from different backgrounds than ourselves—many times, different faith backgrounds.

Attending a university with faith diversity is a positive experience.Sometimes a college campus can be the first occasion to be a part of a community with people of different faiths. Religious acceptance and acceptance of other faith backgrounds is an important lesson to learn. College can be such an influential time in a person’s life, so this seems to be an essential time to experience this acceptance.

I feel fortunate to be experiencing this acceptance at this time in my life. I feel even more fortunate that I have the opportunity to share my thoughts on this subject in a column in the campus newspaper. I want our JCU community to read and recognize this aspect of faith diversity, because it can be an aspect of our lives that can be easy to look past.

I have found that the key to learning to accept others, even in the most differing circumstances, is to remember that we all have common ground. We all bleed red. We all experience the same basic emotions—we all seek love, success, happiness and a sense of companionship. We all endure similar experiences and can relate in some way as to the effects they have on us.

Our university witnessed this firsthand in the fall of 2009 when our campus suffered two student deaths. At that point, it didn’t matter what faith background we were from, or what religious traditions we practice. All that mattered was we were experiencing the same pain, and sensing the same emotions.

This is the beauty of accepting faith diversity. We all share common interest and emotion. The students at JCU are lucky to be immersed in a community in which we are encouraged to recognize this.