Sunday, September 25, 2011

Blog 3: FHE allows Latter-day Saint students to bond

Students gathered Monday night for Family Home Evening at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Institute of Religion on the University of Oklahoma campus.
Family Home Evening, or FHE, is a weekly event that allows Latter-day Saint students to bond. Latter-day Saint families participate in events in their home, but college students hold FHE in their campus buildings, according to the church’s website.
The group started Monday night’s event by singing the hymn “I Need Thee Every Hour.” Maegan Robison, FHE coordinator, presented a five-minute lesson on humility, and the group played the game Heads Up, Seven Up.
FHE usually involves a hymn, a spiritual thought and a game, but not every night is identical, said Brent Davis, Latter-day Saint Student Association president.
“A lot of the FHEs I’ve been to are more spiritually minded than tonight’s,” Davis said.
“There’s [usually] more of a spiritual thought behind it, and tonight’s activity was more directed at having fun together than discussing a spiritual sense.”
No other group on campus has an event like FHE, said Robison.
“We try to focus more on bonding with each other as a family, to try to learn to be supportive for each other in every day life and spiritual things [than do other churches on campus],” Robison said.
FHE is also different from other LDS church events, OU senior Alex Schafer said.
“It’s a lot more casual than church would be,” Schaefer said.
“FHE is kind of just that social gathering that we need at the beginning of the week to get us going.”
Attending FHE allows Latter-day Saint students a unique chance to build bonds with one another, Davis said.
“Every time you come, you get to connect better with your fellow student and people who are a part of the religion here in this area,” Davis said.
            “If you come to FHE, you create better relationships and friendships.”

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Blog 2

             Peace among American religions is possible, three religious leaders said at a forum Sunday, Sept. 11 in Norman.
            Community members gathered at the Nancy O’Brian Center for the Performing Arts to attend the Abrahamic Faiths Post 9/11: Building Peaceful Communities In a Violent World forum, where religious leaders from Jewish, Christian and Muslim communities discussed the impact of 9/11.
The program was not a celebration or a time of mourning, said moderator Barbara Boyd, director of outreach for the religious studies program at the University of Oklahoma.
            “Today’s program is focused on a message of peace that transcends the suffering caused when airplanes became weapons of death,” she said.
            The suffering after 9/11 allowed many to focus on ties of humanity rather than differences in religion, panelist Imam Imad Enchassi, president of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, said.
            “Out of evil always comes good,” Enchassi said.
            “As I approached the mosque [on Sept. 12, 2001], I could see something shiny in front of our door at the mosque. Immediately, to my surprise, everyone picked up their phones and started dialing 911, saying, ‘A bomb, somebody left a bomb at the front door.’ Something divinely drove me toward the door. It was a healing bomb. It was an aluminum bouquet of flowers left in front of our mosque by someone who cared enough to say that they loved us as their neighbors.”
            Rev. Mitch Randall, senior pastor at NorthHaven Church, did not experience the good will Enchassi did.
            “It was on the morning of Sept. 12, 2001 that I made my way out of my favorite coffee shop in Fort Worth, Texas,” Randall said.
            “While getting into my car, a young man pulled up beside me in his pickup truck. He stared at me for a moment, then made a conclusion, most likely based on the color of my skin, that I was one of ‘them’ and offered a one-finger salute to demonstrate his anger.”
            Despite this incident, different faiths can find peace with each other, Randall said.
            Rabbi Bradley Hirschfield, president of the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, discussed the process of rebuilding trust after terrorist attacks.
            “There are no easy answers, and we ought not rely on any easy answers because the task before us is a mighty task,” Hirschfield said.
            “To remember to put it all together again is the task of this entire nation.”
            Learning about other faiths was the best part of the event, said OU sophomore Hannah White.
            “Oklahoma is largely Baptist, and I think they did a really good job of teaching about Judaism and Islamic faith,” White said.
            “I know very little about the Islam faith…I always thought that Muslims were completely different, but they’re not when you get all three into the room.”
            The event provided an opportunity for healing, said OU sophomore Grace Conway.
            “I think it was a good program for our community, and I’m glad it was opened up to the community,” Conway said.
            “In the past, they’ve had things like this for OU and the religious studies department, and I think it’s really good that the community had this.”
             The forum also included a ceremony in which four children from the three Abrahamic faiths mixed colored sands to represent religious unity, something Conway said she found very meaningful.
            The event helped students remember lessons learned after 9/11, White said.
            “It’s a reminder that we’re all people, and we all have to be strong together,” she said.
            “It reminded me that we need to have hope and make peace, and that’s my goal for our country.”

Rabbi Bradley Hirschfield discusses the importance of showing love to other religions with Rev. Mitch Randall and Imam Imad Enchassi. PHOTO: Kate McPherson

Children from the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths prepare to participate in a ceremony to represent the unity of their religions. PHOTO: Kate McPherson

Monday, September 12, 2011

Blog 1: Introduction

            A blog covering religious groups and events on the University of Oklahoma campus was started two weeks ago.
            The blog, Sooners Seeking Sanctuary, aims to increase knowledge about the religious community on the Norman campus. Nine blog posts will use photographs, audio and video to report on activities of groups of various faiths.
            According to freshman Phoebe Lo, a member of the Christian group Chi Alpha, religion is rarely discussed in the media. Lo said conversations about faith in media such as blogs and newspapers are vital to the well-being of religious groups.
            Students say that it’s important to discuss religion through media because of misunderstandings some have about faith.
            “A lot of times Christians in general are grouped together in the media,” Susan Stancampiano, publicity intern at St. Thomas More University Parish and Student Center, said.
            “Catholics aren’t mentioned [in the media] unless it’s more or less controversial or an opinion by the Pope.”
            Lo said she thinks many students are confused about her organization.
            “I guess when I ask people about Chi Alpha they most often think it’s some kind of sorority,” Lo said.
             Sama Astani, president of the Baha’i Association, said media coverage of religions helps shed light on political situations across the world.
            “Given what we’ve been through as a religion, it’s disappointing [that Baha’i does not get more media attention],” Astani said.
            “In Iran, since it’s an Islamic nation, we’re not really allowed to be Baha’is. Baha’i students aren’t allowed to go to school, to universities. Their rights are being stripped away from them. They can’t live a normal life. A lot of Baha’is are imprisoned unfairly, unjustly. The media can raise awareness of religion’s human rights perspective.”
            Astani said he thinks articles and publications about religion are important in a newly globalized world.
            “It’s important to keep people open-minded to help spread tolerance,” he said.
            “We’re at a point where tolerance is looking a little harder to grasp, especially between Muslims and Christians. Given what’s happened in the last ten years, I understand why it’s happening, but talking about religions in the media helps spread tolerance and knowledge.”
            Sooners Seeking Sanctuary will publish a new blog post roughly every week. The blog can be found at