There comes a time in a person’s life that they have to interact with people not of their own, whether it’s faith, gender, race or economic standing. Here in America, with an incredible richness in cultural, ethnic and religious diversity, it is a virtual inevitability. Now I am not saying it will be an easy step. It can be hard to do so, especially for those that have lived in a homogenous environment. But conversing and sharing with an array of people can be a rewarding challenge for those that wish to face it. Depending on who we are and how we grew up, our actions toward one another can either be negative or positive in their impact. To be able to understand the fundamental differences in people and share culture and traditions and find common ground are salient points of discussion that students face on a daily basis here and in the wider world. Unlike certain areas in our society that attempt to limit this interaction or force it to the point of condescension, here Saint Xavier has found an amiable balance of diversity and uniqueness. This is the topic of this week’s introspection, interconnection between people of different backgrounds, specifically of the religious variety, and Saint Xavier’s role in assuring a place of understanding and mutual learning.
One of Saint Xavier’s core values is diversity. It is a value that the students share, the professors endorse and the school cherishes. It knows the limits it has and does not force it where it is not needed and advocates for us students to work to maintain it when we leave. Here, people of all faiths and racial and economic standings, come together with a common goal — to pursue a college education. There are interfaith discussion groups in the dormitories and school-sponsored events in which panels of writers, thinkers and activists discuss the connect of faith and race in our lives. While being a private catholic institution, Saint Xavier does not force the Catholic doctrine upon its students beyond the general guide of mercy found in all faiths and non-faith pursuits. It realizes that such a practice does not work to its goal of understanding and embracing diversity. As someone with no religious faith, I find this school very open; perhaps even more open to diversity than public institutions I have attended in the past. That says a lot of what this school stands for and the openness it has for all its students. It shouldn’t be surprising though; it’s simply the smart thing to do. Now it comes down to the interaction between people of faith that I wish to think over that goes beyond Saint Xavier.
In today’s world, we are seeing just another wave of violence and destruction brought upon innocents by zealots and fundamentalists. As of today, over 60 people were killed in Pakistan by a Taliban attack on Easter, and only several days prior, Brussels was attacked by men aiming to bring about destruction and chaos. There is a fundamental problem in the world and that is dividing people. It so happens that this divide is along the lines of faith and religion. These terrorists abroad and bigots here at home share a disturbing commonality when it comes to their feelings toward people of other faiths. It can be confusing and upsetting for many of us that do not understand how such hate can come about. Are we all not human? Do we not share the same land, drink the same water and see the same sky? Then why is this so? Like the saying goes, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Edmund Burke was right. It is up to people to do something. There is a war ongoing in the world, the war for the soul of a generation, the soul of Islam, the soul of Christianity. For all of us, religious and nonreligious, we must look within ourselves and realize that even though we may each share a different view of the world and how it should work, we all can agree that what is happening is not the answer and that if we can chat and be friends with people of different races and backgrounds, then why not with religion too?