Same beliefs, different practices


Nadiyah Ford said that it's really hard for Muslim students at DePauw to practice their faith here on campus the same way they do at home.
DePauw students of various faiths have noted important differences from practicing religion on a college campus to practicing it at home, such as religious rituals, ways of celebrating holidays and being in a different social atmosphere.
One of the differences Ford mentioned about practicing Islam was praying five times a day. She said that not every Muslim student does that, even when they're at home. For those that do, the prayers happen at sunrise, at midday, in the afternoon, when the sun sets and in the evening.
"Those are the times when you're either in class, or in a meeting, or catching up on homework, or you're trying to sleep," Ford, a senior, said.
Class time also affects Muslim students' ability to attend the mosque on Fridays, as it's held is between noon and 2 p.m., which is class time for many students. Distance is also a factor.
"The nearest mosque is in Plainfield, so it's 45 minutes away," Ford said. "Not everybody makes it out. I know a few students who find ways to get there, but it's not a weekly thing, like they're probably used to."
Ford said she appreciates the services that DePauw has and how willing the Center for Spiritual Life is to help the Muslim students practice, but she doesn't think it's easy for anyone to stick to any faith on any college campus.
Ford is involved with Muslim Student Association (MSA) at DePauw, and she said that MSA helps other Muslim students celebrate their faith and teach other students about their faith.
For example, they can celebrate major holidays like Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha and include a lot of their friends on campus in the celebration.
"It helps people learn and be interested and eat good food together," Ford said.
Ford said that the organization gives the students a chance to teach, which is not something they normally do in their communities at home. She's also been involved with helping plan events discussing the Arab Spring conflict and inviting speakers to talk about the Islamic environment in the United States.
"I've taken a much more political interest in my religion and how it affects others, instead of just talking about it at home," Ford said of her time at DePauw. "I've taken the initiative to learn about it in terms of history and in terms of politics, and share what I know."
Senior Gregory Screws, who is involved with DePauw Christian Fellowship, also said that he has been involved with events discussing politics.
For instance, last semester the Christian Fellowship organized a panel discussion on how modern political views line up with values that Jesus Christ taught through the Holy Bible.
"That's something that I really don't have back at home," Screws said. "Being on campus, we have a little bit more freedom to create certain creative events."
Screws said that he feels Christian students practice their faith on campus practice slightly differently than they do at home.
"I believe ... the reason [is] because there's a lot more things to do with friends, and there's a lot more activities to do on campus," Screws said. "Sometimes we place those at a higher priority."
At home, Screws goes to the same service each week, but here at DePauw he attends different services. He said that some other Christian students might not attend church as frequently.
"I feel like just the social life, being around people who are your same age, and people you have close relationships with ... can really affect your spirituality [and] how much time you spend in your faith," Screws said.
Screws said the Christian Fellowship promotes the consistency of being able to live out one's faith and they also have service once a month, where they invite Christian students to come on campus to worship and strengthen their relationship with God.
It can be challenging to be able to stand your ground amidst pressure to not live accordingly with your faith, and looks forward to attending church each week in the local community according to Screw.
"I think my favorite part is actually just the love that I receive from fellow believers," Screws said.
Rev. Katherine Smanik, the director of the Center for Spiritual Life, said that she thinks that universally, students of faith do not practice the same way they do at home.
"Even if you're from a Christian background, and we have lots of wonderful Christian churches here, the churches here aren't going to practice in exactly the same way that your home community did," Smanik said.
She thinks that for students from minority religions, their faith practice looks enormously different when they're here. At home, they typically have many friends of the same faith as well as places of worship close by.
"If you're a Jewish student who comes from Indianapolis, the closest synagogue might in fact be your home synagogue," Smanik said.
Smanik also noted that the closest mosque was in Plainfield, and that some Hindu students here grew up in India, so their way of practice would likely feel a lot different.
Smanik said that the ways the Center for Spiritual Life facilitates practices for different religion varies from tradition to tradition. For instance, they help Hindu students put together observations for the holidays Diwali and Holi. They also have a rabbi that comes once a month to lead services for Jewish community. Sometimes, they also help Muslim students get to the mosque for holidays.
She tries to be in contact with students and tries to have the students' needs met to the best of her ability.
"I think that it's important to remember that religious practice is actually very personal," Smanik said. "It's something done in community, but our experience of it is always our own."
Freshman Linsey Button hasn't been involved with any organized Jewish events here at DePauw, but she was here for Hanukkah this year.
"My mom sent me a light-up menorah, and one of the other girls on the softball team is Jewish too so she came over, and we said the prayers and put the light bulb in it every night," Button said.
She said that at home, she would usually go to services with her family for the holidays, but they don't go every week.
Button said that she doesn't know a lot of Jewish people on campus and those she does know don't go to the services. At home for the holidays, it's different.
"My family has certain traditions," Button said, "and it's really nice that we can keep those traditions up."