Bahai News - International students bring spiritual variety to U. Texas-Arlington
International students bring spiritual variety to U.
Updated 12:00 PM ET March 27, 2001
By Crystal LaFlash
(U-WIRE) ARLINGTON, Texas -- Although the majority of students at the
University of Texas-Arlington are Christian, increasing numbers of
international students have helped bring in a number of different religions.
In the past, students with predominantly Christian backgrounds attended
here. As international student enrollment numbers continue to rise, students
with different religious backgrounds are having a greater presence here.
Although the university has greater religious diversity now, only one
non-Christian religious organization exists on campus. Other international
organizations are addressing the cultural needs of students. In addition,
there is an atheist club on campus that was started this semester.
International students hold only a small portion of the population here, but
have the largest diversity of religions.
The majority of the 1,093 international students are from India where the
predominant religion is Hinduism, international programs coordinator Julie
Walkin said that even with Hinduism, there are four other major religions in
India that some students may follow: Islam, Jainism, Zoroastrism and Secism.
"At UTA itself, the majority of international students from India are
Hindu, [Muslim] and Christian," she said. "A lot have Christianity in
The second largest group with 147, comes from the Peoples' Republic
of China, which like most cultures entails many types of religions, such
as Buddhism, Hinduism and Taoism.
A large portion of international students also come from Iran, Japan,
Taiwan, Pakistan, South Korea, Nepal and Thailand. Religions include
Buddhism, Shintoism, Baha'i, Islam and many more, Walkin said.
Even with increasing numbers of diversity among religions, about 13 religious
organizations exist on campus, with only one being non-Christian -- the
Society for Islamic Education, which is currently inactive.
There are many student organizations that focus on the culture of certain
international groups, such as the Singapore Student Association and the
Middle Eastern Student Association, but they don't focus on the religions of
each group. The Baptist Student Ministry with 60 members and the University
Catholic Community with 80 members have the highest membership numbers among
the religious organizations on campus.
But there are many other types of Christian religious organizations on campus.
One of the smallest groups here is the Latter-Day Saint Student
Organization with seven members. The Latter-Day Saint religion combines
Christian customs with a mix of Mormon beliefs. In addition to the
Bible, the group studies the Book of Mormon. Mike Hoetzl, president of
the group, said on average 10 people regularly meet with the group.
Hoetzl said his group joins forces with other groups in the area.
"I believe we do fairly represent our religion," he said. "At least
with the members of that faith on campus."
Jonathon Scheffrahn, Intervarsity Christian Fellowship president,
said 16 or 17 members regularly attend meetings and help put together
various functions that the group sponsors such as a weekly barbecue.
The barbecue, Scheffrahn said, serves a couple hundred students each
week at Doug Russel Park, located across from Centennial Court
Apartments, on Mitchell and Cooper streets. He said this gets the
organization known around campus and may help increase membership within
the group. Another group on campus is the Atheist Club, which was formed
this semester and held its first meeting Jan. 5. After this meeting, 16
students signed up to join.
The group aims to provide atheists and agnostics a place to gather.
Atheist donŐt believe in a deity at all and agnostics question
whether God has a direct relationship with the people.
©Copyright 2001, The Shorthorn
Page last updated/revised 032801
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