A celebration of diversity was held in the Interfaith Chapel, last night. The topic was the exploration of women’s roles within their individual faiths. Representatives from Islam, Judaism, Paganism, the Baha’i faith, Catholicism, Protestantism, Sikhism, Hinduism, Unitarian Universalism, Mormonism and Buddhism spoke on the ways they perceive themselves as women within the context of their beliefs.

As both a participant and an observer, I was impressed with the amount of common ground that exists between different religious traditions. No matter the doctrinal separations, each woman represented her religion as empowering to her sense of self.

In a time when religion is often a divisive force, it was refreshing to see it bringing women together to celebrate our common experiences for a change.

In her introduction to the program, Interfaith Intern and Take Five Scholar Heather Hall talked about the lack of women visibly representing their religious views in the media following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11. As a woman who is actively religious, I feel that it is important to share my experiences and to listen to the accounts of other women so I can begin to understand myself in a larger context.

Misunderstandings that occur along religious lines will never be solved without open dialogue that will promote understanding and expose people to opinions that are different than their own.

Zarina Ali spoke about the common perception that Islamic women are repressed. She doesn’t see the Hijab she wears on her head or her modest clothing as oppressive. She sees them as liberating because they allow her to show her devotion.

Zoe Sylvester represented Unitarian Universalists and said that women are considered equals in every way within her faith. For her, this is empowering.

As a woman who is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, a church where women do not hold the priesthood, I see a woman’s role in the sight of God as different than a man’s, but being different does not mean I feel unequal. I have come to appreciate my role as a woman and feel that the values I embrace enhance my sense of self instead of demeaning it.

Through the night, I was amazed at the variety of ways in which women’s roles are perceived, but one underlying theme came through – religious beliefs empower our sense of self.

Too many times, we use categories of religion, gender, or race to separate ourselves. While it is important to embrace and celebrate our differences, it is also important to come to a common understanding.

Taylor can be reached at ktaylor@campustimes.org.

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