Religion Month `lights the way’

Religious student groups crammed November’s calendar with National Cathedral and Holocaust Memorial Museum trips, Interfaith Council discussions and a Nation of Islam presentation during the Program Board’s Religion Month celebration.

“We chose the theme to be `Lighting the Way’ because all the religions in the world relate God to light in some way. `Truth is one – the paths are many’ is a popular saying. There are so many ways to get to God. That’s what we were trying to show,” said Sapna Pandya, a member of PB’s Religion Month Planning Committee.

The month culminated with PB’s Thanksgiving Feast in the Marvin Center’s Colonial Commons Sunday.

The month’s keynote speaker was Helen Luksenburg, a Holocaust survivor, who spoke about her experiences in Nazi concentration camps and the role faith played in her survival on Nov. 5.

Hillel, which sponsored Luksenburg’s speech and a trip to the Holocaust museum, also hosted Missionary Impossible, a panel discussion about how Jewish people should pass their faith to others, said GW Friends of Israel President Adam Segal.

The Newman Center, GW’s Catholic student center, hosted a Spanish-language Mass on the Day of the Dead Nov. 1. The event, commemorating the Feast of All Souls, brought together Spanish-speaking students on campus for a religious and cultural celebration, said Father Brian Frawley.

“Their culture incorporates the dead amongst the living, and holds a great reverence for those who have died. When you ask a Spanish mother how many kids she has, she would respond that she has five children and three angels,” Frawley said.

Students from the Newman Center also participated in the 5K Help the Homeless Walkathon Saturday as part of Hunger Awareness Week. (See story, p. 3)

The Sikh Student Association held traditional prayers, an Indian vegetarian dinner and a lecture to celebrate the 525th anniversary of the birth of Sikhism founder Guru Nanak Dev Ji.

Keynote speaker Nikki-Gurinder Kaur Singh related Guru Nanak’s ideas and principles to the lives of the religion’s followers today, SSA board member Kiranpreet Chawla said.

Sikhism, a religion with roots in the northern Indian state of Punjab, preaches the existence of one God, and the virtues of honest living, meditation and good moral behavior, Chawla said.

“This langer (free dinner) is a great opportunity to expose our religion to other people,” said SSA board member Dawinder Sidhu, SSA board member of the organization said.

Chawla said the purpose of the dinner is to treat everyone with a with a sense of equality.

The Indian Students’ Association sponsored a Diwali program to celebrate the Indian new year, hosting a dinner and traditional Indian performances. More than 350 students enjoyed dinner and the cultural show in celebration of the Indian festival of lights.

The ISA also sponsored a discussion between a University of Maryland professor and a University of District of Columbia professor about the religious issues that affected the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947.

The GW chapter of the Hindu Students’ Council – which calls itself Satyam, the Sanskrit word for “truth” – hosted bhajans, songs of devotion and worship.

The Word Up! bible study group hosted Operation Saturation, three days of worship including an amateur night that featured the “holy Macarena,” “gangsta praise” and a modern day reenactment of the story of David and Goliath.

Islam Awareness Week fell during religion month, and GW’s Muslim Student Association sponsored a Jerusalem Day dialogue, which brought together a panel of Christian, Muslim and Jewish speakers.

The desire to bring different religions together was a running theme of religion month, participants said.

“We don’t always agree on the doctrines of other religions, but it’s great that the different faiths here on campus can respect one another’s principles,” said the Newman Center’s Father Jim Greenfield.

“This week being Hunger Awareness Week, we have a great opportunity to put our faiths into practice and come together in celebration by feeding our brothers and sisters, a salient feature of all our religions,” said Greenfield.

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