An interfaith committee featured students from different religions Tuesday to promote understanding across faiths.
Panelists from various religions – including Catholicism, Judaism and Islam – spoke about their experiences with their religion in life and in college, how they have developed their faith and how their beliefs have helped them to find a community on campus. The Undergraduate Students Association Council president’s office hosted the event.
A moderator from the interfaith committee asked the three student panelists about different aspects of their faiths to spur an open discussion about religion and to address common misconceptions about their faiths.
Lior Behdadnia, a fourth-year political science student, said his Jewish faith has encouraged him to make moral decisions throughout college.
“Obviously we have all had those opportunities to cheat our way through the system or finesse our classes or take the easy way out but for me, being Jewish and believing in Judaism gives me a sense of morality hanging over my head that pushes me to do the right things,” Behdadnia said.
Perry Tran, a second-year biochemistry student, said his faith helps keep him accountable in all facets of his life.
“I like to think of God as sort of a moral gym buddy. He’s there to hold you accountable,” Tran said. “Even when he’s not listening, you will still feel remorse thinking about doing something just because you can get away with it.”
Shahamah Tariq, a second-year engineering student, said she did not have to try as hard to develop her Islamic faith while growing up in Dubai since the religion was so ingrained in the culture. However, she had to put more effort into actively professing her faith once she came to college in the United States.
“It felt more rewarding because I chose to do it. I choose to do it because I find peace in doing it and I find comfort in doing it,” Tariq said. “It might be a minority religion, but the fact that I actually choose to take the time for my religion is a huge deal for me and is what keeps me grounded as a college student.”
Maggie Pickford, an executive co-director of the interfaith committee and a second-year psychology student, said she hopes faith-based events will help students form a community across different religions and find comfort in expressing their beliefs on campus.
“Our goal is to show people that there (are) a lot of similarities across faiths and there doesn’t need to be such a large divide as many people make it out to be,” Pickford said. “So we want to show people that there is a sense of community even across faiths, between faiths.”
Joshua Varela, a third-year political science student and co-chief of staff from the USAC president’s office, said on a large and diverse campus, it is especially important to have dialogues about faith that increase people’s understanding of one another.
“I’m not a particularly religious person, but I think that it plays an important role in a lot of people’s lives,” Varela said. “I think the key to making UCLA more tolerant is to have an exposure to those of other faiths and ideas.”