Every individual who embarks on a three, four, or even eight-year journey as a Lasallian knows that the University is steeped in Catholic tradition. It starts from the distinctive Lasallian prayer, to the Angelus played every noontime, to brothers walking around the hallways, to the 12 units of TRED classes that every student goes through.
As early as TREDONE, students explore other religions apart from Catholicism. A blockmate, seatmate, or friend of a friend might be a Buddhist, Muslim, Sikh, Atheist, or none of the above. Those who belong to religious minorities as they are demographically labeled, share their views on why religion should not be a cause for conflict, but should instead reflect the values of respect and acceptance that a Catholic university like DLSU represents.
Agnostic Anonymous (II, MGT), Buddhist Andrew Tan (V, MEM-MR), Muslim Omyr Abdalla (V, AE-MGT), and Sikh Baldip Bhuller (III, CS-ST) all agree that stereotyping runs abound when it comes to religion, because people usually associate them with the sect they belong to, and not as the people they are.
Omyr can especially relate to this, given the heinous and violent activities of ISIS in the Middle East. He shares, “Islam is a religion of peace, and nowhere is it stated that the acts of ISIS are permissible, but people easily brand Muslims as terrorists.” Anonymous, too, shares his frustrations about being agnostic in a Catholic country. “People think I should not question things and just accept them as they are. Given my below-average grades, some have been telling me to go to church or [to] find God in order for me to be more successful, and I’m uncomfortable with that.” Baldip, meanwhile, echoes the voices of other religious minorities, citing that, “People always think I’m someone who dislikes other religions.”
Atmosphere in DLSU
At first glance, the members of the religious minorities of DLSU might keep a low profile, but they are an integral part of the University, with enlightening views and opinions arising from their unique perspective and experiences.
But how does DLSU treat this small but important non-Catholic population? It’s not easy to find the answer because each student’s opinion differs from the other. When asked if he often felt the religious atmosphere of DLSU and whether it made him uncomfortable, Anonymous says, “I feel like an outcast because my professors often relate the lesson with religion.” Baldip, on the other hand, replies that he only feels it strongly during his TRED classes, to which Andrew agrees.
Another interesting question to ask is if they would consider the importance of establishing an interfaith organization. But, yet again, the religious minorities of DLSU demonstrate their colorful diversity in opinions. Baldip and Andrew seem open to the idea, while Omyr and Anonymous have reservations, with the latter two stating that their religious affiliation is only a small part of their whole identity. This statement, it seems, is a sentiment resonating in the hearts of many in the religious minority groups.
Views on socio-political issues
The Philippines does little to hide the fact that it has a Catholic majority, which can play a part in the way the country is run. Indeed, some Filipinos would actually argue that the separation of church and state is no longer practiced—that the government favors Catholicism, and that this preferential treatment leads to the alienation of other religions.
Anonymous, Andrew, Baldip, and Omyr all believe that the separation of church and state should be upheld in the country. “I have nothing against religion, but if [it] impedes in the advancement of humanity, it becomes a nuisance for society as a whole,” says Anonymous. “If church and state are really separated, one can reasonably assume that divorce and abortion would be legal in the Philippines.”
For Andrew, “The Church is entitled to give their take on national issues, because we are all Filipinos living in a democratic country.” However, he thinks that the Church can only exercise this to a certain extent, and should not force people to agree with them, via blackmail or otherwise. Following this logic, “Religious groups should also not endorse politicians, lest they want to pay corresponding taxes.” In the end, Andrew notes, “People should be open minded and not judgmental of any person belonging to a certain religious group, because every religion teaches good.”
Belonging to any religion has its ups and downs, and the experiences of a religious minority can often be tinged with frustration and exasperation. They hold different views from their Catholic counterparts, and sometimes, the thoughts and actions of the latter befuddle and confuse them. There will always be misunderstandings and misconceptions as long as these people are singled out because of their beliefs. However, those belonging to a religious minority see a light at the end of the tunnel. Despite all the ways society tries to fit them in a certain mold, these people stay headstrong and true to their own identity—something they can’t imagine letting go of.
Anonymous sums it up perfectly when he says, “Being in a minority made me realize how reality functions and how we are not living in an ideal world. Life is, and will always be, unfair, but you should never conform to it.” Their desire to stay true to themselves and to their own identity is perhaps the most admirable thing about these people. And yet, they are often dismissed and stereotyped—the side effect of being in an environment that knows so little about them and hardly cares to glimpse past their exterior. Perhaps it’s time to stop painting all the Lasallians of different religions with such a broad brush.