Sarah Jugovic spent five weeks in Meknes, Morocco studying Islamic society & politics, and the Arabic language. Taught by the professors from Moulay Ismail University, her learning went far beyond the classroom as her daily life became an ever-evolving cultural immersion. From catching a taxi to the grocery store, bargaining in the medina for hand woven Moroccan tapestry, and learning how to pour mint tea the proper way, she learned that ‘Moroccan time’ was more her pace. Language exchanges at the American Language Center and ISA (International Studies Abroad) Study Center with local Moroccans enriched Jugovic’s Arabic skills. In return, she was able to teach English phrases to the locals. When Jugovic was not studying the rise of the Arab Spring or how to pronounce the twenty-eight letters in the Arabic alphabet, she found time to visit other cities around the country by bus, train, and taxi, which include Casablanca, Fes, Volubilis, Rabat, Ifrane, Merzouga, Asilah, and Tangier. Highlights were riding a camel out to a Saharan desert campsite to sleep under the stars after a Berber drum circle took place, hiking through the Atlas Mountains to meet the local Barbary macaques, being allowed access into the Hassan II Mosque, and receiving intricate henna tattoos at a henna party. Also, Jugovic came to better understand the Islamic religion by experiencing the holy month of Ramadan. After fasting for a day and breaking fast by sharing the meal of ‘Iftar” with a Moroccan family, she found this different way of life can teach anyone to appreciate what they have.
CEE Title: PREACH: Understanding Religion's Contribution to Culture
Chatham University’s 2014 Vira I. Heinz Cohort hosted an interactive panel discussion entitled “PREACH!: Understanding Religion’s Contribution to Culture.” The CEE educated Chatham University and its surrounding community by prompting a discussion centered on how global religions can help raise awareness of misconceptions about cultures and religion itself. Panelists represented the religions of Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism. Haya Abdel-Latif, a practicing Muslim and adjunct faculty member in Chatham University’s Counseling Psychology program, spoke about Islam. Sanjay Mehta, the Religion, Culture, and Youth Program Co-Coordinator for the Hindu Jain Temple and his daughter Bhakti Mehta, the National Coordinator for the Coalition of Hindu Youth of America, spoke about Hinduism. Bhante Punna, a Buddhist monk from Sri Lanka who serves at the Pittsburgh Buddhist Center, and Dr. Susan Goodwin, an university professor in the Pittsburgh area who studies meditation at the Pittsburgh Buddhist Center and is a student of the resident monks there, spoke about Buddhism. Topics discussed included the tenets of each religion, the difference between religion and spirituality, the role of religion in contemporary society, and personal experiences of religious intolerance. In addition to the panel discussion, panelists and attendees at the event were asked to fill out a 6-word memoir card to start the conversation about religion and religious tolerance, being that religion is a taboo topic to discuss. The prompt on the cards read as follows: “Six word memoirs have become a powerful tool to catalyze, spark imagination, or break the ice. Think about religion. Now think about six words to express your thoughts about religion and religious tolerance and write them down here.” Prior to the CEE event, 6-word memoir cards were also collected from faculty, staff, and students across the Chatham University campus. These thoughts were then displayed at the CEE event and archived on a Tumblr website (http://preachproject.tumblr.com), in order to keep the conversation going about religion and religious tolerance.