Spirituality discussion finds common ground between religions

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Atheist, Christian, Muslim, Jewish – titles didn’t matter last Thursday at this month’s spirituality discussion in Robinson Hall. The event, part of the “Spirituality Discussions” series sponsored by the Office of Social Justice, Inclusion and Conflict Resolution (SJICR), gathered a dozen students and faculty members to discuss the positive and negative aspects of major religions.

Dr. Julia Pizzuto-Pomaco, from the department of philosophy and religion studies, led the discussion with topics ranging from different interpretations of religious texts, to altruism and moral relativism.

“My personal goal was to just engage the students,” Pizzuto-Pomaco said about hosting the discussions. “Sometimes you can hear theory but not really know what to do with it. I really think that’s more important to talk about: how to apply it.”

Some of the participants in the discussion were students of Pizzuto-Pomaco’s, in attendance to supplement what they were learning in class.

“Some of the concepts in class, because they go so quickly, it’s hard to keep up in that realm,” said Flora Ruli, a graduate coordinator at SJICR. “Having a more relaxed discussion would help [students] grasp those subjects a little bit better.”

Other students attended because they had opinions and insights they wanted to share.

“I know people still had misconceptions about Islam, so I was like, ‘Well, somebody’s got to do it,’” said junior biology and law and justice major, Alamzeb Khan.

“Religion and a lot of other topics are so taboo that people don’t feel like they can talk about them,” Ruli said. “But having a safe space where you can really have whatever opinion you want, and as long as you’re civil about discussing it, people will listen to you.”

When people are able to have dialogue with one another, they find similarities between themselves. As Pope Francis was quoted as saying in March, 2013, “My wish is that the dialogue between us should help to build bridges connecting all people.”

Towards the end of the discussion, Jay Chaskes, a Professor Emeritus who had earlier referred to himself as a Ba’al Teshuva, or a Jew who returns to the Jewish faith, was explaining how the Hebrew word for charity is Tzedakah.

“Oh, sadaqah – sadaqah, it’s the same thing in Islam,” Khan said.

Khan went on to explain how Hebrew and Arabic are both Abrahamic languages, sharing many of the same words – including the word for charity.

The next Spirituality Discussion will be on Nov. 19 in room 119 of Bunce Hall. Next month’s topic will be spirituality and stress.

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