Religion Week hosts `survivor’

Far from the deserted island where the CBS survivor competed for $1 million, castaway Dirk Been spoke to students during a GW Religion Week event Monday night at the Hippodrome.

I think that my experiences on that island have helped me to better understand God’s purpose for me, Been said to a group of about 30 students.

Millions of Americas and countless GW students tuned in this summer to watch Gervase, Dirk, Rich, Kelly, Rudy, Sean and others as they competed to be the lone survivor and winner of the CBS television show, Survivor. Monday night, Dirk, who lasted 15 days on the island before being voted off, spoke to students about how his religion helped him overcome challenges both on and off the show.

We were hungry all the time, but your body learns to adapt and respond to the changing conditions that you are in, he said. I believe that when you have nothing, God is there for you. For me it was a real spiritual journey.

Religion Week 2000, which took place Saturday through Tuesday, featured an array of events to promote diversity on campus, including a Shaman necklace-making exercise, Hindu prayer sessions, a lecture on homosexuality, natural healing workshops and religious services. The goal of the events was to combine numerous faiths and let people see the diversity around them, while better understanding others’ faiths, said sophomore Arezoo Riahi, who organized Been’s visit.

Been talked to students about his early college days spent chasing girls and trying to be the man on campus.

I found that that was all that was distracting me from my true aspirations and away from my goals, he said.

GW students gathered on couches in an informal setting to talk about the show, life and religion’s place in their lives. Been, a former YMCA volunteer and youth minister, said he is no stranger to such discussions.

I love working with kids, and the fame from the show, when it just became so popular, has allowed me to be able to speak at things like this, Been said.

Been said religion sparked his interest at an early age.

Ever since I was a little kid I have been interested in talking about God and Christianity, he said. It has been truly a blessing to know I have so many people who are interested in hearing from me. It is clear that this is the path that God has chosen for me.

Organizer Riahi said this informal discussion was a different approach in reaching out to the student body.

I think that this event offered a different way for students to view religion, whatever religion they are, she said. To have someone like Dirk, who is a celebrity, come to speak with students, it offers a real dialogue.

Brad Mewes, a sophomore and member of the Rock Fellowship, said he enjoyed the informal atmosphere and easy conversation with the survivor.

I really appreciated this real coffee-shop-type setting, he said. I think that it allowed us to better interact and have a better discussion.

Veronica Burbano, of International Cultural Affairs, said the event was an excellent example of the goals of the week’s activities.

I think this shows people what religion is like for others. It is good to expose people to different ideas and with celebrities such as this it attracts more people to the dialogue, Burbano said.

The Program Board sponsored Religion Week events with cooperation from other student groups, such as Hillel, the Buddhist, Hindu, Indian and Sikh Student Associations and the Catholic Student Center.

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