Religious diversity at DSU on the rise

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Students like Abdulmalik Animashaun, Min Than, Daniel Killinger, Gbemisola Obideyi, and Joshua Lopez are all from different parts of the world, but all have something in common — love for their own diverse religions.

Animashaun, a sophomore biology major from Lagos, Nigeria, works in the Testing Center at DSU and is the sixth child of a muslim family. His parents have always encouraged him to practice his religion while remembering to be good and kind to everyone. Animashaun prays five times daily and said it is sometimes difficult in the U.S. because there’s always the challenge of trying to pray in class or at work or not having a nearby mosque.

“I used to run home just to pray,” Animashaun said. “[One day] during work, I felt weak and I didn’t feel so comfortable telling my boss [about my religion]. But she said that I should be free [to practice my religion], and she found a place for me to pray. So now I pray at the Testing Center just for five to 10 minutes.”

Animashaun said if people put in faith, things will work out even if sometimes people don’t like the color of your skin or the way you are. He said as long as people do good, eventually everyone’s going to love you in the end.

“I went on a trip to Las Vegas with my class,” Animashaun said. “I thought it was going to be so difficult because I was the only black person, and I was the only muslim. I told the leader of the group that I would need to be going to go to the Mosque on Friday, so he said it was okay. At the end of my journey, I never regretted going [because] the class was so friendly with me and they actually went to the Mosque with me and they all prayed with me and it was so fun.”

Animashaun said diversity in religion is important because students should embrace other cultures. Animashaun will continue to go pray five times a day alongside students and the muslim community at the WEDU at 7:30 p.m. where anybody can come in to ask questions and learn about their religion. 

Than, a sophomore finance major from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, grew up in a Buddhist household. She Visited temples and pagodas in Vietnam while growing up. However, living in St. George, Than does not have a place to practice her beliefs.

“My mother believes that all gods are just one god,” Than said. “Religion is not important; it’s just who you believe in.” 

Than said there are a lot of followers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and other diverse Christian participants in St. George but no Buddhism; however, she likes going up to Salt Lake City where there are temples and pagodas.

“It would be really nice if they had [a place] here at [DSU],” Than said. ”Having diversity in religion would create more opportunities for people to experience different religions and have a chance to widen their knowledge.”

Than said every religion is beautiful, and if students are Muslim or Christian, it does not matter because we are all humans.

“Religion doesn’t say who we are,” Than said, “It tells us who we believe — and I don’t think it actually matters what you believe in.”  

Killinger, a sophomore criminal justice major from Palmer, Alaska, grew up Lutheran for 10 years before his family became Methodist, then changed to a non-denominational church not connected to any specific religion. Killinger said it’s nice to meet different people from around the world and see how they live life, learn their beliefs and see what culture they’re from. Killinger said he believes that any religion can give a sense of faith, comfort and hope.

“I think it’s nice to kind of have that different set of beliefs or ideals because it creates diversity,” Killinger said. “’Variety is the spice of life,’ like my father always told me, and I think that’s the concept that America has; we are a melting pot.”

Obideyi, a junior nursing major from Lagos, Nigeria, is the daughter of two Pentecostal ministers for the Redeemed Christian Church of God.

“Our churches are a lot different,” Obideyi said. “We have drums, and we have choirs, and singers, and everybody keeps dancing. It’s really fun. Sometimes even the youth in our church… go up to the front and start dancing. The pastor also sings and dances.”

Obideyi said in Lagos you have to dress up each Sunday for church. Women do their make-up and wear traditional Nigerian gowns. In St. George, Obideyi attends church at The Salvation Army. She said it doesn’t have things like the dancing and drums they have in Lagos, but it’s the closest thing to the one at home.

“People should not be ashamed to practice [the] religion that they want,” Obideyi said. “Since we all have the same god, it is just your belief. Your religion should be a strong connection and you should feel empowered by it. And you tend to pray more when you feel more, [and become] devoted; I’m proud of my religion.”

Lopez, a freshman general studies major from La Puente, California, has gone to Intervarsity, a college christian ministry club that gives college students an opportunity to explore the bible and who Jesus is, for the third time this semester. 

“It’s important to me because it’s nice to know that there are other believers out there that have faith for Christianity [who] put their faith in Jesus Christ,” Lopez said. “[Religion] is really close to my heart and my priority in life.”

Lopez’s family is a mix between Hispanic and Central American, and his mother is from Nicaragua. Lopez said his family’s culture is predominantly Catholic, but he decided to become a Christian during his sophomore year of high school. Intervarsity meets every Monday at 7 p.m. in the Campus View Suites on the first floor. 

“I try to read [the bible] every day because I know what I can be, and what Christ sees in me,” Lopez said. “I know if I have faith at the end of the day it’s going to be for Christ and not for myself.”