Keeping the Faith

Navigating Library Walk during Welcome Week can be overwhelming with so many organizations there trying to attract your attention. Among the political and social clubs are some that many students find just as important as debating or partying: organizations that cater to UCSD’s spiritual needs.

Rebecca Drexler
Guardian

There are 42 religious organizations on campus, according to a Student Organizations and Leadership Opportunities pamphlet. The groups cover many world religions, and vary as much in their size and level of on-campus visibility as they do in their practices and values. Each contributes to campus life in its own way.

At first, UCSD can be intimidating, so many students affiliate themselves with a religious group to find a comfortable atmosphere that allows them to socialize, but also to remember what they are living for.

Roosevelt sophomore Rebecca Cohen joined the Union of Jewish Students because it gave her the feeling of being with a family while away from her own.

Tyler Huff
Guardian

“”For me, Judaism is linked to my family, and without that part in my life, I would feel disconnected,”” Cohen said.

Muir freshman Amber Martin feels that joining a religious group on campus is “”consistent, making it easier to adjust to campus life.”” She said that she thought of joining Campus Crusade for Christ because it would help her maintain a religious connection away from home.

CCC’s purpose is to help students meet people and find satisfaction through their faith. According to its mission statement, the CCC is dedicated to giving “”every student the opportunity to know how they can have a personal relationship with God.””

The club’s president, Roosevelt senior Craig Shigyo, said the CCC’s priorities are “”to offer the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the campus, and also to build a community of love, grace and truth.””

The organization, which has about 200 members, does this through meetings at which a different guest speaks each week.

“”That time is meant for Christians to come together and for others to come learn,”” Shigyo said. He said that each college has its own Bible study group to provide a more intimate environment and discussion.

The CCC also fosters student connections by providing festive environments for its members. Each Bible group goes out together after sessions so people can get to know one another. Shigyo added that CCC is planning a camping trip and a conference in Los Angeles with other Campus Crusaders.

Marshall senior Richard Chen described the group as a “”tight-knit community.”” He explained that many of the other Christian organizations on campus, such as the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, work with CCC on events. This cooperation, Shigyo said, offers different viewpoints and chances to meet people.

CCC emphasizes communication among different religions. It plans to hold a comparative religion forum this quarter. Marshall junior Victor Ha, who is the CCC’s outreach chair, is organizing a “”nonthreatening, nondebated forum, to allow people to deduce for themselves, and get their questions answered.””

Ha, along with the Crusade committee, believes that many come to UCSD unsure of themselves and their religious beliefs. He thinks that this forum will be educational for many. Ha said his goal is to unite speakers from the Muslim Student Association, UJS, and other organizations to individually explain their beliefs.

The MSA is an active organization of about 50 members. Despite being smaller than other clubs, the MSA is “”very active”” on campus, according to Margaret McKnight, a manager at the Office of Religious Affairs.

According to MSA president Muir senior Ahmad Salem, the MSA is “”an area for Muslims to come together.”” It offers Koranic Studies on Tuesdays and holds meetings Thursdays.

“”One of MSA’s main goals, other than reaching out to Muslims on campus, is to reach out and educate other UCSD students,”” Salem said.

The MSA accomplishes this through various high-profile campus events. It sponsors Islamic Awareness Week, in which nightly lectures aredesigned to explain Islamic doctrine to non-Muslims. Last year MSA held its first annual Culture Fest, where it displayed on Library Walk the worldwide reach of Islam. MSA plans to hold another Culture Fest this year.

Like CCC, the MSA reaches beyond its membership to connect with students. Last week, MSA and 10 other student organizations together held a rally, “”United in Peace,”” which encouraged healing after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

MSA member Muir sophomore Iman Salem said the rally was to show solidarity.

“”Muslims were shocked by the bombings, and we are hurting, too,”” Salem said in reference to the persistent fear and suspicion of Muslims among some Americans. “”We wanted to express our concern and pain to students.””

Marshall junior Nadia Aziz joined MSA three years ago unsure of what to expect.

“”It is a whole different community,”” Aziz said. “”As Muslims, we are big on brotherhood and sisterhood, and the MSA is like my family. I can count on them for anything.””

She said that the organization is still growing and that it hopes to reach out to more students with each new event.

Most organizations are experiencing an influx of members this year, especially UJS.

Marshall senior David Weisberg, president of UJS, said a record number of people attended UJS’s Welcome Week barbecue, “”Shmooze with the Jews.””

The rising number of participants may be due to growing awareness about what UJS offers UCSD. Weisberg explained that UJS “”provides religious, educational, social, political and cultural facets in the community. If there is a need for it in the community, we do it.”” He listed examples such as political lectures, Israeli dancing and networking events with other UJS groups in San Diego.

The most popular service that UJS provides, according to Weisberg, is the Friday night Shabbat service. Attendees gather for religious services, then divide into Reform, Conservative and Orthodox groups, based on the differing practices and traditions within Judaism. After services, all members socialize while eating dinner, which is, Cohen said, a “”nice Kosher meal.””

UJS plans to focus on a large community service activity this year. Weisberg has suggested visiting a children’s hospital or a nursing home.

“”Our goal is to have one long-term project,”” Weisberg said.

Weisberg said UJS does its best “”to reach out to all the Jewish students”” and that he is very pleased with the positive responses the organization is getting this year.

The Baha’i Club blends the Christian, Jewish and Islamic faiths into one belief system. The Baha’i organization has about 100 members, and according to club president Warren senior Sam Shooshtary, 50 of them are active.

Shooshtary said that the Baha’i embrace all scriptures.

“”We believe in the common foundation of all the religions: the belief in one God and in one humanity,”” Shooshtary said. “”It is important to show that we are one, to express tolerance and to promote unity. Our goal is to educate.””

The club has educated UCSD for years through the Hate-Free Campus campaign. Shooshtary said other activities include their services, held every 19 days, in which “”the community gets together for a dinner and a discussion about what is facing our community.””

The officers and members of each organization feel they have much to offer UCSD’s students. They all focus on creating a welcoming environment. They share the common characteristic of becoming like a second family, a group with which students can have fun, relieve daily stress, and connect to their faith with people who share their vaues.

For so many, it is the religious aspect of their lives that makes them feel like they are balanced individuals. Not only do they find long-lasting friendships, but become stronger individuals in the process.

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