Religion Week brings faiths together

Students crowded religious events last weekend to mark the end of what organizers called the best Religion Week in recent years. The week of events was dedicated to “make religion seem cool.”

Events included Christian, Hindu, Islamic and Jewish experts speaking
about holy wars, a “Discover Sikhism” dinner, an interfaith celebration in the Marvin Center and a Filipino cultural celebration.

Junior Arezoo Riahi said the events were aimed to promote unity among religions on campus in a “chill” atmosphere.

“We are trying to make religion seem cool,” said Riahi, who helped organize events as Program Board’s multi-cultural affairs chair.

She said everyone has a “one-dimensional” view of religion, and the week was trying to show students all the different religions on campus.

Riahi also said it is important to focus on unity and religion in the wake of Sept. 11.

“There are definitely a lot of differences from last year,” she said.

Riahi said PB did most of the programming this year, instead of letting the individual religious societies and organizations plan their own events, to integrate the organizations.

Food for 300 people disappeared in one hour Friday afternoon as more than 500 students crowded Kogan Plaza for barbecue and to talk to representatives from campus religious organizations. Student organizations such as the Hindu Buddhist Ministry, Muslim Student Association and South Asian Society took part.

Riahi, who organized the event with sophomore Neerali Shah and junior Juhi Shukla, said the Kogan Plaza event was a culmination of an “outstanding week.”

The Indian Student Association hosted a dinner for 400 and a dance party Friday night to celebrate the religious holiday of Diwali, a festival of light.

The event included a sit-down dinner and transformed J Street into a stage for a 15-act dancing and singing program.

Students performing wore sequined dresses, veils and other costumes in dance sequences with music. Tradition mixed with modern music as some performances included candles to signify the festival. Sophomore Ankur Rastogi’s Michael Jackson performance entertained students at the end of the event.

ISA president Rishi Desai said the holiday has become “more of a cultural thing” in recent years with more emphasis being placed on the social aspects of the event.

Desai said it was an honor to take such a major role in this year’s Religion Week. Desai, a senior, said it was the best Religion Week he has experienced at GW.

“This is the big thing we do this semester, and we have been planning since the beginning of the year,” Desai said.

Students said Religion Week was a success because events like the ISA Festival of Lights were well attended.

“The event on Friday made me think people took something from Religion Week,” junior Divya Menon said. “Unless you show that (religion) is something interesting, people won’t be interested in it.”

Others agreed.

“I really enjoyed it,” freshman Nisha Kapadia said. “I think it brings diversity and other perspectives to students living in the GW community.”

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