Despite Monday’s plummeting temperatures and blustering winds, students and faculty alike gathered in the Donahue Auditorium of the Dolan Center for Science and Technology to listen to an interfaith student panel speak about spirituality and individual beliefs.
The interfaith panel, comprised of six John Carroll University students, began with each student describing themselves generally before explaining their religious backgrounds more specifically. The six students on the panel’s bench represented widely disparate spiritual beliefs. Panelists included sophomore Abdellatif ElAshram, juniors Daniel DeMello, Nora Cuthbertson, Tyler Potts and Kevin Kussmaul, and senior Svetlana Knezevic. Each panelist ascribes to a unique faith.
The intention of the panel was to allow students to share their individualized religious journey, and was not structured to be a theological debate. Each panelist spoke from a personal perspective. According to Gail Roussey, JCU’s Coordinator of Liturgy, the driving force behind hosting this panel was to have “[many] faiths all represented on one panel, so people could see one question [of faith] answered in six different ways.”
Roussey noted that this was not the first time a faith panel has been held on campus. Three similar panels were held during the 2013-2014 academic year. While this represented the fourth time John Carroll has held such a panel, each previous iteration focused on discussions focusing on a singular religious tradition.
This year’s panel provided a cross-section of various backgrounds, including Muslim, Secular Humanist, Jewish, Catholic, Orthodox Christian and Lutheran.
When asked about what she wanted the JCU community to gain from this discussion, Roussey said, “I think just a respect of the different faith traditions and the secular humanist tradition that we have…that people are sincere and they are trying to find their own paths.”
To make this event possible, numerous departments, including Campus Ministry, the Center for Service and Social Action and the Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion collaborated in their efforts. This event also received support from the Tuohy Chair in Interreligious Studies.
The majority of the event focused on fielding various questions about their faith. While some questions had been previously prepared for the panel, the panel members fielded some poignant questions from the audience as well. Potts noted, “It is important [to have these events on campus] because, for myself, I am one of the few [Secular Humanists] on campus, so I think it’s important to just get the word out.”
Other panelists shared similar sentiments about the importance of hosting such events.
DeMello added, “I think it’s very important to have interfaith panels so people know that there are other people besides Catholics at this school and that there’s diversity here.”
Throughout the entire event, both the panelists and members of the audience demonstrated a respectful and amicable approach to the topics.
Roussey noted that JCU plans to host another interfaith panel during Ignatian Heritage Week this year.