College ignites religious transformation for 4 students

Rosemond Crown

College years, for many students, are a transformative period in life where they are tasked to question their ideologies, their passions, and of course, their religion. This transformation, while typically deemed as a pull away from religion, happens in a variety of ways.

A 2007 study by the Social Science Research Council concludes that 64 percent of students currently enrolled in a four year institution report a decline in their faith practice and 13 percent of those completely denounce all connection to religion.

Jesse Greene on Faith, Sexuality and Rebellion

 

Jesse Greene is a sophomore from The Bahamas. His religious transformation neatly falls in line with what is typical of a college religious transformation. Greene grew up in not only a household that was extremely conservative in their Christian values but a society that is deeply religious and deeply conservative where 94 percent of Bahamians are Christians and attend regular church service according to the U.S Department of State. Throughout his childhood and teen years, Greene followed the footsteps of those around him and practiced his faith to the best of his abilities. When he moved to Austin to attend St. Edward’s University, Greene left Christianity behind. He says he realized that he was merely mimicking those around him. In reflecting on his life in the Bahamas, Greene also notes that the way in which Christianity was practiced in his home country, was hypocritical and that the values expressed were different from his own. The absolute last straw for Greene was the fact that his sexual orientation as a gay man was unacceptable to his family and his larger community.

Green came out as gay to his family this summer. He says although their reactions were not ideal, he recognizes that they are trying to make sense of something they have been taught to dislike. Greene believes that coming out is a huge step in living his true authentic life.

Mahnoor Nadim on Defining Faith for Herself

 

Mahnoor Nadim’s religious transformation is of the uncommon variety. She was born and raised in Pakistan, an Islamic nation but she only became truly immersed in her faith when she began college in California. Nadim’s mother while she possessed strong faith was not necessarily involved in the religious practices that the culture demands. As a result, Nadim grew up with that same perspective of faith being more important than practice and did not seek to associate with the faith that her entire country professes. Nadim says that some of the conservative values of many Muslims do not resonate with her and so she neglected the faith. But in starting college, she felt that she could define faith for herself and practice her religion in a way that does not compromise her liberal views. Nadim credits her emboldened faith to being removed from home to a different country and having to find a community for herself. She says upon arriving to college, she made many Muslim friends and that urged her to once again look at Islam outside of the strict, conservative culture of Pakistan.

 

During the time when Nadim was finding faith, she began wearing the hijab. She has since stopped wearing it. She explains that the hijab only has as much value as is attributed to it. She says at the point in her life when her faith life was weak, she needed the tangibility of the hijab but now that she is in a stronger place, she feels she no longer needs it.

Abraham Bassam on Staying Consistent with Faith

 

From his childhood days in the Ivory Coast of West Africa Abraham Bassam had always been called “the imam”, which is the Arabic word for an Islamic worship and prayer leader. Bassam gained this name because from a young age he had always shown an unwavering dedication and passion for his Islamic faith- praying 5 times a day, and fasting during the month of Ramadan. Bassam says while his peers had a hard time being devoted, it was fairly easy for him because he was surrounded by family and others who were also devoted to the faith. Upon moving to the Austin to attend St. Edward’s University, Bassam went through a brief period of laxity where he says did not pray consistently or engage with God. Bassam says he became distracted by friends and all that was going on around him but that period was short lived. Bassam credits his being granted a student visa to the U.S. to God. He calls it a miracle. He says at the time when he become lazy about his faith, he remembered this miracle and decided to continue to honor his faith as he had done in the Ivory Coast.

Bassam says he was able to maintain his religious beliefs while still being open minded and learning about other faiths. He regularly attends Bible study events on campus in order to learn more.

Monserrat Bernal on keeping an open mind

 

Monserrat Bernal is originally from Mexico and like many Mexicans her family is Catholic. Growing up, Bernal recalls her mother, a very devout Catholic, taking her to masses and teaching her about Catholicism. Bernal says at a young age it was fine but as she got older, she became frustrated that related everything in their life to religion. She says she was put off by this and resented religion all throughout her teen years. Her rebellion against her parents’ religion caused her mom to enroll her in a Catholic school. Even when she came to college, Bernal considered herself to be agnostic- with a willingness to believe in God if his existence could be proven. In her sophomore year of college, Bernal says her mother tricked her into going on a trip to Bosnia and Croatia. The trip turned out to be a conversion trip where some priests would attempt to convert Bernal into Catholicism. Initially, Bernal says she was livid at what her mother had done but the trip turned out to give her some of the answers she had been seeking.

While the event was intense and meant a lot for Bernal, she refuses to tell her mom about it because she fears that such testimony will be interpreted as a commitment to Catholicism.