Baha'i News -- Georgia Southern celebrates Reigious Awareness Week Local News Web posted Saturday, November 16, 2002

Georgia Southern celebrates Re[l]igious Awareness Week

Jane Page with the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Statesboro at the Religious Awareness Week at Georgia Southern University.
--Steve Bisson/Savannah Morning News

Rashonda Dixon, 19, if front of the Christ Ministries at the Religious Awareness Week at Georgia Southern University.
--Steve Bisson/Savannah Morning News

Aaron Feldser represents Hillel at Georgia Southern University.
--Steve Bisson/Savannah Morning News

Nary Motahar represents the Baha'i faith.
--Steve Bisson/Savannah Morning News
By Ann Stifter
Savannah Morning News

Statesboro -- Georgia Southern University sits in a county where visitors would more likely run into a Southern Baptist or United Methodist than a more liberal Unitarian Universalist.

And while on campus, visitors might meet more secular students who pray only at test-time than students who pray all the time.

Yet, it was those prayerful students from minority faiths who participated in the school's Religious Student Organization Fair on Thursday.

"It's just to show the campus there are different religions," said Aaron Feldser, a 20-year-old junior who promoted the Hillel Jewish student organization.

Only a few of the 15,000 students visited the four religion booths in the Russell Union Commons, a sign that some say does not indicate student apathy toward religion.

"It's like if you set up a fair for Democrats on campus. A few people would stop by, but a lot more would vote," said George Shriver, an emeritus history professor who founded the GSU religious studies program in 1975.

Many students are active in such off-campus religious centers as the Baptist Student Union, Wesley Foundation and Newman Club. Also, the university's introduction to religion course, which started four years ago, has been expanding, Shriver said.

"Secondly, a lot of contemporary students consider themselves spiritual and not religious and are not that interested in institutions," he said.

The two-hour fair was part of the university's annual Religious Awareness Week, which ends Thursday. The school is located 60 miles west of Savannah.

Those who did stop by met members of the small local Baha'i community.

"We believe in the oneness of humanity," said Dr. Nary Motahar, a family medicine physician who was born in Iran, grew up in Atlanta and works in Metter.

"Religion is here to help us grow."

Passersby also could have talked to Rashunda Dixon, a 19-year-old sophomore representing the on-campus Bible study, Christ Ministries.

The fair may help students who are struggling spiritually, she said.

Georj Lewis, director of the Multicultural Student Center, said he was unsure why mainstream religions did not participate.

"We put this on to educate the campus community about all the faiths on campus and throughout the community," he said.

Jane Page, a professor of education on campus, said she wasn't standing in front of the Unitarian Universalist booth to convert students to her religion.

As a candidate for the ministry, she just wanted to let them know her faith exists.

Sometimes students reject religion because they no longer believe what they were taught, Page said.

"If they look around, there are options that are more in line with their ideas," she said.

"There are folks who think like them."

Religious Awareness Week Schedule

- Ministers in Song Music Conference. Filled with services, devotion and music to empower individuals with knowledge of praise and worship. Russell Union, 8:20 a.m.-9 p.m.

- Panel discussion: the nature of evil according to Christian, Jewish, Islamic and Baha'i faiths. Russell Union Room 2084, noon-1 p.m.

- Presentation: religious unity in diversity from the Baha'i perspective. The Baha'is will introduce their faith and share the healing message of spiritual unity in a diversity of religions. Russell Union Room 2084, 1 p.m.-2 p.m.

- Presentation: "Marry, Marry, Quite Contrary" explores the history of marriage and its alternatives. Russell Union Room 2084, 12:30 p.m.-1:30 p.m.

- Presentation: developing a Christian worldview with integrity. Challenges students to explore their faith and integrate that faith into all facets of their lives. Baptist Student Union, 7 p.m.

* Wednesday

- Presentation: Christianity in the real world, focuses on issues around faith in the workplace. Baptist Student Union, noon-1 p.m. and 1 p.m.-2 p.m.

- Presentation: Separation of church and state, discusses the meaning and practical application of the separation of church and state in the university community. Russell Union Room 2084, 3 p.m.-4 p.m.

* Thursday

- Panel discussion: the true meaning of Islam. Moslem students will discuss various topics, including the five pillars of Islam; prayers; the role of Islam in government, education and daily life; Islamic fundamentalism; and what it is like to grow up as an American Muslim woman. Russell Union Room 2084, 10 a.m.-11 a.m.

- Presentation: Dead Sea Scrolls and their relationship to Christian origins. Russell Union Room 2084, 12:30 p.m.-2 p.m.

©Copyright 2002, Savannah Morning News (GA)

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