The conversation was the last in a 2018-2019 series of panel discussions organized by the Student Affairs Diversity Committee.
Etiosa Evbuomwan (left), Shaheed Ansari and Dr. Emily Sweitzer.
An academic year-long series of panel discussion on relevant issues concluded with a look at the meaning of spirituality.
“Spirituality and Beyond,” was the final “What’s the T” discussion and took place in Duda Hall on April 18.
Cal U’s Student Affairs Diversity Committee established the series to foster thoughtful conversations about timely topics.
Panelists included Shaheed Ansari, a sophomore criminal justice major; Etiosa Evbuomwan, a junior majoring in business administration; Dr. Vamso Borra, assistant professor in the Department of Applied Engineering and Technology; Kim Carson, director of New Life Christian Fellowship; and campus ministers Pete Ware and Meghan Larsen-Reidy.
Dr. Emily Sweitzer, program director of Cal U’s sociology concentration in social deviance, was the moderator.
Ansari, who is in the Honors Program, said he sometimes feels ostracized as a Muslim in America and that people are often surprised he does not celebrate holidays such as Christmas or Easter.
“I’m from Connecticut, not Saudi Arabia, but being Muslim is a part of me, it’s my personality,” he said. “The acceptance of the difference is what’s good, and I see religion as a way to make people better and treat others more kindly.”
Evbuomwan became an agnostic after feeling too confined growing up Catholic.
“I believe in God but not the Bible,” he said. “Everyone has their own truths or beliefs, and it’s effective for them, which is what’s important.”
Borra, who is originally from India, came to Cal U from the University of Toledo.
“We don’t worship idols but forms of God,” he said about the misconceptions of being Hindu. “It takes several years to really understand Hinduism, and it’s not something that will happen just by reading a book.”
Larsen-Reidy discussed the crisis in the Catholic church.
“It’s apparent that the Catholic Church hasn’t done a great job protecting its most vulnerable members,” she said. “I think right now we are in a period of time to really look at mistakes we’ve made, call out those people who have not done a good job protecting, and simply improve and be better.”
Carson, a Baptist originally from Florida, cited the assumptions that are made on people based on their affiliations as a serious misconception.
“I love this panel because we are having a civil discussion and expressing ourselves as who we are,” she said. “Being more accepting creates a more peaceful community.”
Ware answered a question from the audience about exploring Christianity. “Read the Bible and get some cultural background,” said Ware. “A pastor once told me to keep asking God questions.”
Event coordinator Sheleta Camarda-Webb, co-chair of the Student Affairs Diversity Committee, said the first year of “What’s the T” events were successful and thanked the panel and audience.
“Having thoughtful, civil conversations are not designed to change your mind but hopefully change your heart,” Camarda-Webb said.