By Thomas Moran | Staff Writer
Baylor’s student population is becoming more diverse every year, and previously unrepresented minority groups are gaining positive footholds in the student and faculty populations of Baylor.
As an outspoken Baptist institution, Baylor’s campus is characterized by countless Christmas trees, wreaths and ornaments, all to celebrate the Christian holiday. Through these traditions, Baylor outwardly preserves and upholds its Christianity.
Arlington religion doctoral student Nathan Hays celebrates Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, with his wife every year.
Hays views Hanukkah as both a religious and familial tradition. Lighting the candles of the menorah and preparing latkes, a traditional dish, are among the ways that Hays observes Hanukah.
Though Christian himself, Hays says he views Hanukkah as a significant part of his and his wife’s heritage which he foresees celebrating in the future.
On a day-to-day basis, Hays actively engages with Jewish culture and history through his studies of the Hebrew Bible and Old Testament in the Baylor Religion Department.
Corinth senior Hurrr Murtaza is a practicing Shi’a Muslim. Upon choosing to attend Baylor, Murtaza was well aware of the religious differences between himself and much of the Baylor community, but recognized his situation as an opportunity to learn and better understand his peers.
“I was brought up with the importance of interfaith and how important it is to have an interfaith dialogue and just understanding one another,” Murtaza said. “Going in, I was actually very excited to be in that environment and see devout Christians and see that passion come up. At the end of the day you know, worshiping God is still worshiping God. It was an exciting experience to have the opportunity to come to Baylor.”
One of the more prominent religious celebrations in Islam is the end of Ramadan, a month spent in prayer and fasting.
“The day starts off with going to prayer, so all the men will gather at the mosque and do a group prayer and then you’ll go back home and usually there’s all sorts of meals will be prepared,” Murtaza said. “And you go house to house to eat meals with friends and family that day.”
Regarding annual religious celebrations, Islam is based on a lunar calendar, which means that each year, holidays and days of importance occur earlier on than the year prior, Murtaza said.
Fresno, Calif., freshman Ashwin Jayakumar was raised in and actively practices Hinduism. Jayakumar says his difference in faith has never incited abnormal challenges for him on Baylor’s campus.
“It doesn’t really affect my day to day life except sometimes during Chapel,” Jayakumar said. “The religious services that occur in Chapel are obviously different from what I’m used to. Especially the benedictions, the prayers, the music, it’s all different from what I have experienced. And it’s kind of something I’m still getting used to.”
Apart from this, Jayakumar says Baylor has been a welcoming environment and he appreciates the holiday celebrations across campus.
“It was actually nice to see that much decoration around the entire school,” Jayakumar said. “I know it probably took a lot of effort between administrators and the people who actually put it up. I actually really enjoyed seeing all of that.”
Hurr and Jayakumar both emphasized their appreciation of open dialogue and look forward to continuing their undergrad experiences within the Baylor community.