BYU graduate students Scott and Kristi Johns were looking for a way to give back during their last year at BYU. Together as co-presidents, they started the Students Honoring and Appreciating Religious Equality Club together. As this husband and wife graduate in April, they will both leave a legacy of religious tolerance.
The club, nicknamed S.H.A.R.E., strives to build bridges and promote understanding about religion on campus. With 500 non-LDS students at BYU representing over 25 different faiths, the club has been a great opportunity for the couple to promote religious tolerance.
Part of the three-fold mission of the club is to provide a voice to minority religions, to increase understanding and awareness among BYU students of religious and cultural diversity and to unify students of all religious backgrounds.
Kristi Johns said there is too much tearing down of other cultures in the world.
“We need more building up,” she said. “We have a lot more in common, than different.”
She enjoys being involved in the club because she has the opportunity to get together with lots of people and talk about religion.
“The world is full of different people,” said Alejandra Bradford, vice president of marketing for S.H.A.R.E. “It makes no sense to just pick one thing.”
On March 28, the club held its end-of-the-semester activity in the Ezra Taft Benson Building. It was an interfaith panel discussion, moderated by Dean of Students and University Chaplain James Slaughter. The panel had eight panelists who represented Hinduism, Islam, Messianic Judaism, Protestantism, Roman Catholicism, Secular Humanism and Unification Church faiths.
All of the panelists were asked questions by Slaughter and then questions from the audience. Topics for discussion included the panelists’ reasons for attending BYU, using their faith to find comfort at BYU, how their religion affected their ethics and their views of marriage pertaining to their religion.
Many of the panelists expressed how much they love BYU, especially the honor code and level of academics. They encouraged audience members to be open minded and to learn about other faiths. Panelists also encouraged the audience to share religious experiences and traditions with each other.
“I don’t want people judging me, so I don’t judge other people,” Sarah Harris, a panelist representing Messianic Judaism, said.
Dean Slaughter plays a key role in integrating non-LDS students into university life. He interviews them over the phone before they come to BYU and lets them know that he is available while they are here. He also refers them to resources and encourages them to be connected on campus.
He also gave some suggestions on how BYU students could be more open minded about other cultures.
“Follow the golden rule,” Slaughter said.
S.H.A.R.E. has its weekly club meetings on Tuesday at 7 p.m. in room 3252 of the Wilkinson Student center. To get more involved and to receive more information about its monthly events, visit the website at sharebyu.org.