The other day as I was walking on the edge of campus that meets downtown, and I noticed that there are two Christian-affiliated churches nearby. These buildings are right outside of campus, so students have access to walk to church every Sunday morning.
The great part of this is that students can walk a short distance off campus so they can practice their religion. The not so great part of this is that there are no other places of worship nearby.
What does that mean for students who practice other religions? Is there a place of worship nearby for students that are not of a Christian-affiliated faith? Religious inclusivity needs to be promoted on college campuses.
Every person wants their religion and their beliefs to feel validated. People do this by taking the time to go to their respective place of worship and practice. The lack of accommodation is also accompanied by the lack of religious freedom. You can’t deny someone from practicing their beliefs, and we have to make accommodations for religious minorities.
In Lincoln, there are very few foundations and places of worship for those who practice Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism. It makes for limited options and not every student has access to transportation. On campus, most religious organizations are predominantly Christian. There are registered student organizations for Muslim and Jewish students, but there are no RSOs for Hinduism, Buddhism or other religions.
Having access to the proper tools to practice religion boosts religious freedom, and we have to remember that religious freedom is embedded in the First Amendment of the Constitution, the document that knits the fabric of our lives together.
Religious freedom is so essential in our nation. If we have temples and places of worship for everyone to go to, then it can satisfy that demand. Not recognizing the issue of a lack of places for worship ultimately becomes ignorance. Having an abundance of Christian and Catholic churches but no synagogues or mosques will create a barrier and expectation that some religions are better or more important than others.
There are huge consequences of not acknowledging someone else’s religion and excluding those that believe differently from you. At the simplest level, you miss out on the opportunity to learn about someone else’s culture. That individual also misses out on the chance of practicing what they want and connecting with their community. That ignorance can lead to battles with other individuals, and can spiral out to become battles with masses of people. In early centuries, there were wars over religion, and now, we’re essentially seeing a new Holocaust.
The Chinese government is currently repressing Uighur Muslims by forcing them into internment camps. Between 1 and 3 million Uighurs have been detained for reasons such as “having a beard” or “wearing a veil over mouth,” which are norms for this religion. There are roughly 380 concentration camps in Xinjiang. In those camps, Muslims are locked away, forced to denounce Islam, interrogated and beaten. People are forced into submission and die at the hands of government officials. One of the worst parts is that not everyone knows about this. People are turning away and ignoring the issue.
This has become the largest mass internment of an ethnic-religious group since World War II.
We cannot let history repeat itself. We cannot let the actions of individuals and in this case, an entire government, go unnoticed. We have to recognize these dangers of ignorance and learn what we can do.
While taking a religions class during my senior year of high school, my teacher always said, “Learning about other religions can help us solve a lot of the world’s issues.” Learning about where someone else comes from will help you have a better understanding of how someone lives their life. Learning about why people of other faiths need to have places of worship is just as important as well.
If you are a Christian, imagine if you lived in a place where there were no churches that you could go to and there was no place that you could practice Christianity. How would that feel? Your answer to that question is how thousands of people feel when they live in a town where they have no temple or place of worship to go to. Put your differences aside and just listen. Ignorance becomes uncivil discourse, and when this happens, we begin to distrust others.
When I was walking on campus and noticed the two churches, I knew that the intention for having the two buildings settled there was for a good cause. We have the ability to use the same energy to create spaces for students of non-Christian faith also.
Adam Flowers is a freshman music education major. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.