Without divulging any current beliefs, I was raised a Lutheran in the small town of Waterford, Pa. (about 30 minutes away from campus). It’s safe to say I did not grow up with a strong sense of other cultures, be they foreign or simply of a different religious background. However, this did not lead to ignorance as many might assume; rather, it sparked an incredible interest in learning from and experiencing others’ traditions. This interest bloomed throughout high school, where I took one of my favorite courses of all time: Religious Literature and Mythology. As I let the subject matter sink in, I only looked to further my knowledge by whatever means possible in college.

Fast forward to my decision to come to Gannon, if not for any other reason than how comfortable I felt here. Although I am not Catholic, I looked forward to taking theology classes and soaking in every bit of religious background possible. I am mostly aware of Christian traditions due to where I was brought up, so the real joy comes from experiencing other religious customs. This is why I had a blast at Islamic Night.

First and foremost, the turnout was awesome. It’s not that I didn’t expect many people to be there, rather I had no idea how many to expect; fortunately, the open area on in third-floor of Palumbo was fairly packed. As I walked in and searched for my girlfriend, I was handed a date (a popular fruit in the Islamic culture) as well as my first taste of Arabian coffee. The coffee was bitter, almost tea-like in consistency, but interesting nonetheless, especially for those who typically like their coffee strong. There was a young man making announcements and thanking everyone for joining, explaining that those attending would be given time to walk around and speak to others about what the Muslim faith entails.

I spoke with one attendee, a former RA and fraternity president about whether or not he had experienced any discrimination here.

“Gannon has been completely accepting; it’s incredible to be able to attend a Catholic institution that continuously promotes the freedom of religious affiliation by allowing us to hold events like this.”

I walked from booth to booth, learning about their month of fasting and collecting small religious pamphlets to better look at back at my dorm. As I arrived at the last booth, it was announced that those of Islamic faith would be taking a moment to say a prayer and those who were interested were invited to observe. The practice was awesome to watch, as everyone removed their shoes and switched positions on the floor over the sounds of a song of prayer.

Lastly, the night ended on a note that brought us all together. That’s right folks- never underestimate the power of pizza. As everyone enjoyed dinner and reflected on the night, I felt a strong sense of appreciation for everyone in the room. It’s these kinds of events that bring students closer to one another, erasing stereotypes and promoting diversities in the process. Islamic Night was a huge success and I can only hope we have more cross-cultural get-togethers to look forward to over the course of my college career.