Interfaith Portraits

Photos and micro-interviews of guests in the Interfaith Together Dinner  |  February 20, 2020

Credits: Christina Franusich (Photo), Madison Sweezy (Writer/Editor), Mary Desmond (Intern, Audio), Najla Mouchrek, PhD & Beatriz Mouchrek (Design)

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Interfaith Portraits

No one religion can suit everyone, it doesn’t happen. I am an agnostic atheist, I converted from Christianity and even though Christianity works wonderful for other people, it did not work for me. So much conflict just comes out of people trying to figure out what is the correct religion and the thing is, there’s no way to answer that. It’s impossible to find out the “truth”. I think we just need to accept what others accept as the truth and just work through our conflict without worrying about who’s right or who’s not.

Sophomore in English, member of the Interfaith Advisory Council
Interfaith Portraits

I see hope in friends who are going through crises and one day at a time they’re making the choice to get out of bed and keep going. I see it in first-year students who come to Virginia Tech who are lost and who are trying to figure out what they’re doing, what their vocation is going to be. I see it in my colleagues and friends who just celebrate every day with an optimism that I could never conjure up. So I think hope is everywhere, you just have to actually look for it and not come from a pessimistic point of view.

Associate Director for Academic Initiatives in Housing and Residence Life
Interfaith Portraits

I was born and raised in the United Methodist Church and I really hadn’t developed my faith until coming to Virginia Tech and joining the campus ministry at Wesley.

Something that I’ve learned and have really come to appreciate is how open my religion is in being able to discover what I believe in. I think there are a lot of other faiths that have that freedom to decide what your view is and what you want to believe in.

General Engineering
Interfaith Portraits

I didn’t go to church regularly. When I did go it was with my grandmother, she was Methodist. In college I studied theatre as one of my majors, and a lot of theatre is rooted in biblical stories. Some theater from other cultures have other religious roots, and I grew fascinated reading through the Bible stories from an analytical perspective. So even though I didn’t grow up really religious I wanted to familiarize myself with the content.

Assistant Director of Financial Wellness, Hokie Wellness
Interfaith Portraits

I’m Catholic. Coming to school and meeting people at Virginia Tech that are living out the faith in loving others, that’s exactly the mission that has inspired me to go out and live out Ut Prosim through my faith. My freshman year I went on a spring break trip through the Newman Center and that was the catalyst for me realizing that there’s so much I want to do with my engineering degree service-wise. It’s very interesting to see how my faith is calling me to serve people of all different backgrounds. Here at school, I want to reach out to those that seem to be on the periphery and just love people that don’t seem to feel connected here.

Junior in Electrical Engineering
Interfaith Portraits

I’m inspired by Buddhists and Buddhism. I think the idea of learning how to detach–in the right circumstances–can be very helpful for both emotional health and for allowing us to move forward. It helps us to not get so caught up in certain things that may be happening that we disagree with. I’ve been learning from the life and works of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. and find them very inspiring. Many of these people who have worked for peace and justice have promoted the whole idea that we don’t have to agree to make the world a better place or work together to add more happiness to the world instead of more suffering.

PhD student in Computer Science
Interfaith Portraits

During India’s Independence movement, Bal Gangadhar Tilak said “Swarajya is my birthright and I shall have it!” (Swaraj means self-rule). I personally believe that everyone should live by their values, not by the values of other  people. I believe that each community, each belief, has a right to decide how they want to self-govern themselves. I want to serve people through some way and I figured that after doing my PhD here, I could serve people through solving their problems using scientific methods and using technology–so I’m hopeful that I will be able to do it.

PhD student in Mechanical Engineering
Interfaith Portraits

I had an experience when I was working as a therapist, and the therapy has to do with healing with your hands. There was this person who, at the end of the session, said “I really appreciate it but I can’t come back here. My religion is very strict and it seems like you are blessing me, and I can’t have this.” It was eye-opening to see that sometimes things are so dogmatic that people know in their hearts everything is well, but they can’t because of too strict rules. I have been observing how sometimes being part of a religious group might be confining to people, while for other people, in other situations, how truly freeing it is for them.

Program Director, Interfaith Leadership & Holistic Development
Interfaith Portraits

I find it interesting just learning about different cultures, different religions, and different types of people.

That’s one of my passions–just seeing how the differences in people make us who we are and how that can also bring us together.

International Studies and French
Interfaith Portraits

I was in the Peace Corps in a village in Zambia, and a guy asked me if I wanted to build a dam. We spent five weeks, with just two hoes and a shovel, building the dam. We had to put the dirt in our arms and physically walk it over. The rains come and eventually part of the dam wall breaks and it’s devastating. But there was enough to show other farmers in the area.  I was expecting we were going to have to wait another year for the dry season to fix it, then I saw that the original farmer had fixed it and it was one of the most beautiful moments I had ever experienced.  He was already throwing off water and building gardens beneath those. I just felt like, wow, after a year and a half of feeling like we’d gotten nothing done, this thing worked out in such a beautiful way.

PhD student in the Human Centered Design Program
Interfaith Portraits

In high school I was very involved in my faith in my youth group, but when I came to college I fell away a little bit. I like to believe that it was God that moved me to kind of “come back”. I was unhappy in some of the relationships I had freshman year and didn’t feel very fulfilled, and I wanted to head back towards virtue and things that fulfill me. Because of this, I started getting more involved with my faith and that was the best decision I made in college.

Lately, I was reminded  that my only purpose is to love everybody and to not worry about getting caught up in all the little things of the world — really just meet people where they are and love them. The church is a body and we are the church –the people– and love is our duty.

Senior in Chemical Engineering
Interfaith Portraits

I have a genuine curiosity for different religions and faiths. I don’t have religion or faith in my life, I didn’t grow up in a household that had one and for me, it was trying to figure out where I found community. I always saw that religion itself brought people together and they always seemed to care for and support folks. I was in a time of my life where I felt like I was in-between opportunities of community–I had graduated from VT, but I was not yet in grad school.  I was searching for a place to find community and I still don’t know. I still question, I still don’t know if there is a God, and so I am currently battling impostor syndrome in different religious areas. Places like this [dinner] make me feel like I’m welcome to be able to come and have these conversations.

Conduct Coordinator for the Office of Student Conduct