Georgia Southern professors seek to create religious dialogue among students
By: Caroline Hodge
During Georgia Southern University's annual Hot Wings & Hot Topics event representatives of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Baha'i faiths were all present for active religious discussions with students.
Dr. Dan Rea a professor in the College of Education hosted the event along with the Multicultural Student Center on campus.
“So with events like this is a chance to have discussion, have open dialogue, to ask questions about hot issues about contemporary issues, whatever and find out for themselves firsthand from a rabbi or from a priest or a representative of the different world religions what their actual beliefs are,” Dr. Rea said.
Dr. Allyson Prude a Religious Studies professor on campus encourages the event and for her students to openly engage in religious conversations.
“At Georgia Southern one of my goals, being the teacher who does Asian religions is to introduce students to religions and ways of thinking about religion in ways they haven't been exposed to before,” Dr. Prude said.
Having taught religion in Wisconsin prior to coming to Georgia Southern Dr. Prude said that GSU students are more hesitant to talk about religion.
“I think students here feel pressure to be mainline Christian and if they are not they censor themselves. I get the sense in my classes that students are hesitant and they feel like it's very touchy and if they say the wrong thing then the world might blow up or people might get angry with them and so it almost makes them too cautious so it's hard to get that discussion going,” Prude said.
Another issue Prude had in class is that students were skeptical to conversing about Islam. She said that students need a warm up course that can prepare them for that, however the Hot Topics event seemed to be the proper setting for students to openly discuss Islam.
“It’s a chance to find out about another world religion that they’re not familiar with. Maybe they’ve gotten some misimpressions or misconceptions from the media or their friends and they don’t really know what Islam believes about terrorism,” Rea said.
It will be another year before panelists and representatives of all four faiths sit down and have a conversation again on campus, but Dr. Prude challenges all college students to learn the importance of openly discussing religion.