Hundreds attend religion discussion

Calmness and civility prevailed as over 200 people gathered Nov. 8 to attend a religious discussion in Peterson Hall.

The evening event, which lasted almost two hours, was sponsored by Campus Crusade for Christ, Hindu Students Council and the Muslim Student Association. It featured representatives of four religions.

The purpose of the discussion was “”to have a nonoffensive, very sensitive discussion among religions to show the intricacy and the beauty of each,”” said Victor Ha, outreach coordinator for Campus Crusade for Christ.

Rabbi Lisa L. Goldstein, executive director of Hillel of San Diego, spoke on behalf of Judaism; Babu Gandhi, visiting professor of Hindu University in Orlando, Fla., represented Hinduism; Jeff Holmes from La Jolla Presbyterian Church discussed Christianity; and UCSD graduate Mohamad Kotob discussed Islam.

Each panelist answered six pre-selected questions directed to them by emcee Tim Niegocki. Panelists summarized their answers to fit the short period of time allotted to each of them.

Questions such as, “”Does your faith have sacred texts?”” and, “”Does your faith have holy days?”” were projected onto a screen for the audience to view. Members of the audience were not allowed to address the panel.

One panelist expressed concern with the format.

“”Maybe we could [have been] passed on questions from the audience and randomly by a moderator we could answer them,”” Gandhi said.

Some audience members said they approved of the format because it ensured a nonconfrontational, informational atmosphere.

“”I thought it was good that they didn’t open up discussion,”” said Marshall senior Heather Kadani. “”There was no chance it could turn into a debate.””

Ha said conflict had been considered prior to the program.

“”The minute it gets confrontational, we’re stopping the event,”” Ha said at the start of the evening.

Most of the panelist and audience members expressed satisfaction with the program.

“”I enjoyed the openness of all the participants and I was impressed to see everyone awake and engaged,”” Holmes said.

Ahmed Salem, Muir senior and president of the MSA, cited changes he felt would have improved the program.

“”[The program] didn’t stress the commonalities in the religions. We tended to stress the differences,”” Salem said.

The audience ranged from student members of the host organizations to students with no religious affiliation.

“”I just saw [an advertisement] on the board and I thought I’d check it out — I love all religions,”” said Marshall junior Courtney Pache.

According to the event’s organizers, more religions were sought to provide even more information.

“”We included any religion we could get a hold of,”” said Stephanie Simmons, outreach coordinator for Campus Crusade for Christ.

Despite the touchy topic, the discussion never heated up. At one point the mood was lightened by humor.

When asked, “”If you were to walk out of this room and get hit by a shuttle bus, what would happen?”” Kotob replied, “”I hope I’d have a big funeral.””

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