Being a religious person in a post-secondary institution can sometimes be an uncomfortable experience. I was raised in a Christian household and still actively practice my faith, and when I tell people that I am often met with a variety of reactions, some more welcome than others.
In no way is this limited to the Christian experience. Students belonging to any religion will typically be met with a myriad of responses when talking about their beliefs. Some of their peers will show them acceptance while others will offer condescending explanations of why their faith is irrational. Still others, unfortunately, will show intolerance and hatred towards their beliefs.
Sadly, each religion comes with its own set of harmful stereotypes. For myself, I find that many people, upon learning I am religious, expect me to be judgemental or close-minded. Many religious students at KPU and elsewhere can relate to the struggle of trying to prove to our peers that, while our religion is a significant part of our lives, there is so much more to who we are.
The situation is made even more complicated when religious students attempt to find reasonable ways to practice our faith on campus. Muslim students, for example, have to work around their classes and around other on-campus activities to participate in their daily prayers. At some schools like McGill, Muslim students have even had to pray in hallways and under stairs because there is no dedicated prayer space on campus.
There are also faiths that prohibit engagement in things such as drinking, eating certain foods, dancing, or being active on holy days. When class ends and some students get to know each other over drinks at the GrassRoots, say, those who aren’t able to join them can be left on the outside looking in. Without an adequate way for people with these sorts of restrictions to make friends, a barrier can begin to form between religious and non-religious students on campus.
That’s not to say that KPU hasn’t put effort into accommodating their religious students. For one, the university has provided a Multi-Faith Centre, where Chaplains from a number of beliefs including Christianity, Islam, and Secular Humanism are available to “to chat about personal, spiritual, or philosophical issues.”
In addition, two of KPU’s campuses have designated sacred spaces intended to give religious students an area in which to meditate or pray. These areas can be found on the Richmond campus at R1570 and in Fir 305 on the Surrey campus. Both are open to all students and faculty.
KPU even has a numbers of clubs and organizations that focus on respective religions, such as the Kwantlen Christian Fellowship and the Muslim Student Association. These clubs not only promote religious tolerance, but also offer students a way to connect with others who share their faith. Still, there should be more of them for Sikh, Hindu, Buddhist, and Jewish students at KPU.
Despite our different backgrounds and our different ideologies, I have found that my faith has helped me connect with students who belong to different religions. We tend to bond over the shared experience of navigating our beliefs while going to university, and I hope all students at KPU also get to experience a shared sense of community, regardless of their faith.