On the Friday of Faith Week, campus pastor Todd Lehman led a group of students to observe a worship service at the Islamic Society of Wichita. Students were offered the trip to see for themselves what a Muslim worship service is like.
Todd saw the trip to the mosque as a way for Christian students to see their own faith in the context of another religion. No one was forced to attend this outing, and a number of students took this as a good learning experience.
Sophomore, Christina Hershey felt it was important to visit the mosque because she finds that “the main thing separating us from those who are different from us is that we do not understand or know much about them.”
Christina took this opportunity to hear about and experience the Islamic faith from true Muslims themselves rather than just accepting what society says about Islam and what they believe.
Eric Cender, a sophomore student, acknowledged that “there are differences between [the two] religions but it is very important that we regard Muslims with respect, and one way we can do that is to learn about their religion.”
The intent was not to convert, but rather to educate.
Especially with “the way that Muslims are portrayed in our US media,” Todd found it “important [for us] to learn about people different from ourselves as … real individuals that we can see as more than just a massive group that we are against.”
American culture is shoving down our throats this idea that all Muslims are violent extremists. When Islam is talked about in the media, it involves groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda who have a violent interpretation of the Quran.
But this is an inaccurate representation of Islam as a whole.
Christina reflected on some of the discussion at the mosque where representatives explained how “that kind of behavior is not condoned in the Quran. While the media does not portray it, the Islam faith is very peaceful and loving.”
She believes that “much of the fear of Islam in America comes from this misinterpretation that is represented in the media.”
Todd recognized this trip to the Mosque as a way to see Muslims as people instead stereotypes. He was hoping to put the Christian faith into a broader perspective, which is a learning outcome held by Hesston College.
In many of the syllabi you’ve ever gotten here at Hesston – I’m sure that you just skipped past it without actually reading it – there’s a significant bullet point: This course is supposed to bring about an “awareness of one’s own faith perspective within the context of the local and global community.”
You probably didn’t think much about the faith outcome that Hesston College stands by, or you stopped reading after it said learning about faith from a Mennonite/Anabaptist perspective. But if you had made it all the way to the third bullet point of the fourth learning outcome, you would understand why observing at the mosque was important.
However, not every student had this same mentality. Some felt uncomfortable that this trip was offered because Hesston is a Christian school, and they didn’t understand how this fit in as a part of faith week.
And that’s OK. It’s understandable to be a little reserved about things we don’t know about, which makes going to the mosque all the more important.
Yes, Hesston is a Christian school, but at the same time we need to recognize that this was Faith Week, not Christian Week. Faith looks different to different students.
When we take a step back, we can recognize that Hesston College is a beautifully diverse place that is home to people of many different backgrounds, which includes faith. Here at Hesston, we have several students who identify with the Muslim faith.
Faith week to them meant something different than what faith week meant to me. We have two different faiths, Christianity and Islam, yet we can respect one another’s faith and the decision to believe in those faiths.
It’s fine if you didn’t agree with Todd’s decision to offer the trip to the mosque as a part of Faith Week, but at least acknowledge that faith goes beyond what you might consider faith. Hesston College’s fourth learning outcome is proof of that.