Opportunities to learn about other religions, backgrounds all around us
If you're not a religious person, it can be easy to brush off religious holidays as they come and go every year, especially if it's not Christmas. This Sunday is Easter, a Christian holiday, and— unless you celebrate the holiday or have kids hunting for eggs— many people won't do more than shrug. And many Christians who do celebrate the holiday, may not know much about religions other than their own.
However, in a world that is full of religious tension, it's more important than ever to educate yourself about other religions. Our society continues to blend and evolve, and one of our responsibilities as U.S. citizens is to be religiously tolerant - it's in the Constitution.
As a college student, you have more opportunities than ever to learn more about or get involved in religious organizations. Grand Valley State University has 20 faith-related student organizations, and the city of Grand Rapids has a large faith community. From the campus' new Wiccan club, to Catholic Student Ministries, to the Muslim Students' Association, GVSU students have a wide array of groups to explore and discover and even the option to start a new one.
Grand Rapids is also a great resource for those looking to learn more. Within the city, you can find mosques, churches, synagogues and other places of religious worship. As long as you approach other religions with respect and genuine interest, in most cases, people would probably love to share with you what their religion means to them. Do your research, talk to the right people and you may find out something you wouldn't have otherwise known.
GVSU, and most universities, give us the unique experience of immersing ourselves in different cultures with people who are different than us and hold views that might not align with ours. Talking to them and learning from them is never about changing your thoughts and your religion, but more about expanding your knowledge to include people of all walks of life. Events are held every day on campus that look at different religions and beliefs.
Beyond religion, educating yourself as a citizen of the world is one of the best things you can do for yourself. More than classes, more than degrees, being a citizen of the world means life long learning and keeping an open mind. Ask questions. Open your mind. Educate yourself. Knowing more can never hurt. The world we live in is a big one and in college there are so many opportunities to meet people with different backgrounds, which we all should be tolerant and supportive of.
So during religious holidays, it's the perfect time to step outside of your boundaries or your comfort zone and learn something new. This goes beyond religion, including other diverse perspectives in the world today. With the world at your fingertips, take the time to experience new cultures. Cultural competency is a valuable quality, and college is the perfect place to start learning.