Faith in Focus: Exploring Religious Diversity on Campus

The first in an occasion series on faith on the ECC campus.

On campus, there are many students who have different beliefs and practice different religions. According to a blog post by Gitnux, 71% of American college students identify themselves as having a religious affiliation.  The Observer interviewed students to find out about their faith when more and more Americans do not identify with any faith tradition.   

Abandonment & Salvation

First-year student Mary Klikas was born into a Christian family.  She attended a church as a young girl but later left the church due to a negative environment.

“That church was big on using fear to control you,” Klikas said. “It was not about the love of God and how good he is, but about ‘if you don’t this and this you’ll go to hell.’”

The unnamed church was very strict towards its peers by having the women and young women wear skirts down to the ankle and not show any skin. During her time at the church, Klikas experienced a merger between two churches.

“It was so strict that you couldn’t wear wired glasses; they would have to be plastic,” Klikas said. “Because of the merge it got better, but there was still this lingering feeling of the bad environment.”

Klikas deals with chronic migraines, a condition where she has long-lasting episodes of headaches and migraines.

“I was told that my migraines were because I was sinning, if you knew your Bible that is not the case,” Klikas said. “With the church I’m currently going to, instead of people blaming me for my chronic migraines, they’ve prayed for me.”

After leaving the church she grew up around, Klikas avoided all things related to her religion.

“I was not open to religion at all after that,” Klikas said. “I thought if this is what church is like then I don’t want anything to do with it.”

Klikas rediscovered Christianity during the pandemic, and she later started to attend a different church.

“I was at my lowest point in my life when I decided to give church one last try, I’d always been taught to fear God, so when we switched churches it was very peaceful,” Klikas said. “It saved my life.” 

In the New Testament, Romans 8:18 reads, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

“Even if I’m going through something bad, I still have peace and joy because I know there is a greater purpose and meaning behind it,” Klikas said. “ I trust God to protect and take care of me and my family.”

Through her church, Klikas recently learned the answer to a common question Christians get asked, “If there is a God then why does evil happen in the world?”

“God gave Adam and Eve free will and because they sinned, the whole world has sinned and is tainted by sin,” Klikas said. “If he hadn’t given them free will, he would not have been a just and fair God. He gave us the option and is not controlling us.”

Whenever challenges against her faith arise, Klikas turns to fellow peers and God for answers.

“Everyone has challenges to their faith, it’s normal,” Klikas said. “How people view Christianity is not how it always is, just because churches are bad doesn’t mean that God is bad.” 

Klikas plans on pursuing a career in criminal psychology helping victims of crimes receive justice as well as seeking to understand the psychological profile of a criminal. 

“I think God puts you in places where you can serve and help others best,” Klikas said. “I don’t want to counsel people through Christianity but to help people through different situations.”

Reflections on Faith, Values, and Islam

Mahum Mohammad, a first-year student, shares her personal experience with her Islamic faith and how her beliefs have influenced her life and worldview. 

“Islam is a religion based on the belief in the oneness of God,” Mohammad said. “Muslims believe that Allah is the one and the only God. This belief is the foundation of Islam, and is reflected in the pillars of Islam: daily prayers, charity, fasting and pilgrimage that Muslims are required to perform.”

Mohammad believes in the core values that guide the lives of Muslims, which serves as her moral compass.  

“In addition to these pillars of Islam, there are also important values and principles that guide the behavior and actions of Muslims.”

Mohammad appreciates other aspects of Islamic values. 

“Justice is a fundamental value in Islam, and Muslims are encouraged to be just in all their dealings, and to stand up against oppression and injustice,” Mohammad said. “Compassion is another key value, and Muslims are encouraged to show kindness and empathy to all people, regardless of their background or beliefs. Humility is also a central principle in Islam, and Muslims are taught to avoid arrogance and pride, and to be humble in their actions and interactions with others.”

Mohammad explains the major Islamic holidays.

“One of the most popular Islamic holidays is Eid al-Fitr which is a holiday that marks the end of the month of Ramadan, which is a month of fasting and spiritual reflection. It is celebrated with feasting, gift-giving, and community gatherings. There’s also Eid al-Adha which is a holiday that commemorates the willingness of the Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham in the Bible) to sacrifice his son in obedience to Allah. Muslims celebrate with feasting and the sacrifice of an animal, the meat of which is distributed to the poor and needy.

“Another one is Mawlid al-Nabi, this is the celebration of the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday and is observed with feasting, prayer, and the recitation of religious texts.”

Mohammad believes there are misconceptions about Ramadan, the month-long period of intense fasting and prayer. 

“I have experienced misconceptions regarding Ramadan: people usually feel sorry that Muslims have to fast for a whole month and think it’s something really cruel but in fact Muslims wait for this month to come and enjoy fasting.”

Mohammad tries to confront a prevailing misconception that often surrounds the role of women in Islam.

“Another one is people think that women are oppressed in Islam, while there are certainly instances of gender inequality in some Muslim-majority countries, it is not accurate to say that all Muslim women are oppressed. There are many Muslim women who are leaders in their communities and have achieved great success in their personal and professional lives.”

A Catholic Student

Kelly Stoffle, a second-year dual credit student, shares her experience as a Catholic student in ECC. 

With religion being a main thing on campus, students still struggle with balancing their faith and work. Stoffle tackles this issue by applying the teachings into her daily life. 

“One way that I apply the teachings in my daily life is selecting something to work on for the week based off of the readings at Sunday mass,” Stoffle. “I also pray every morning and night. In the morning, I pray for strength to get through the day, and at night, I reflect on what I need to improve, what I’m thankful for, and things alike,” Stoffle said.

Stoffle was born into a Catholic family, causing her to actively practice her faith.

I still actively practice my faith because I feel as though following in the steps of Jesus Christ provides me with purpose and helps me lead a more fulfilling life,” Stoffle said. 

Practicing a religion can also cause arguments or tension with other people, debating if a God does exist or if science is the one and true way. Stoffle handles this by taking a different route than simply denying science cannot go hand-to-hand with religion.

“I try to always stay true to my morals and foundation when it comes to those tough situations,” Stoffle.  “I know that my faith is leading me down the right path and I don’t want to ever steer away from that. As someone who’s entering the STEM field, I try to use science as a tool for my faith rather than let it disrupt my faith.”

With religion, there are common misconceptions because people aren’t fully aware or have the knowledge of that particular religion. 

“I find that some of the biggest misconceptions regarding Catholiscm is that all Catholics are extremely conservative and not forward thinking,” Stoffle said. “I try to address situations like these by using my own faith as an example to show people that the focus of Catholicism is living a good, honest life.

“One of the most important aspects of being a Catholic is helping those around you, which is why I’m working my way towards becoming a doctor,” Stoffle said.