Students of many faiths find a place in Utah Valley

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Adhari Zayneb, who is Muslim, selects a book from the Harold B. Lee Library. Zayneb is part of the Muslim minority at BYU. (Photo by Lucy Schouten).
Adhari Zayneb, who is Muslim, selects a book from the Harold B. Lee Library. Zayneb is part of the Muslim minority at BYU. (Photo by Lucy Schouten).

PROVO — Most students at Brigham Young University are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but the small group who is not have resources to practice their religion throughout Utah Valley.

There are more than 25 different faiths in Utah Valley alone, and many of them are represented at BYU. According to 2012 statistics, 1.4 percent of BYU students are not LDS. That is about 450 students who walk around campus daily.

Some may wonder why a student would attend a university for a religion that is not their own. Many of those non-LDS students attend BYU because of desirable aspects unrelated to religion, like affordable tuition, quality of education and the Honor Code.

“I chose BYU for the education, for the tuition and the fact that the Honor Code is in place,” said Conner Knier, a pre-med student from Chicago and a member of the Catholic faith. “A lot of places might have rules. I know where my sister goes to school there’s an honor code, but no one follows it. For a place like this, where it’s enforced and people actually follow it, it’s good and kind of reassuring.”

Other students have chosen to attend BYU because of the excellent athletic teams and programs that the school has to offer.

“I run cross country and track here, and so that was a big draw for me initially,” said Conner Peloquin, a senior majoring in marketing and a member of the Catholic faith. “It was a really big differentiator for me because the track and cross country programs here are really elite.”

Because other religions are in the minority, it allows those of other faiths the opportunity to clear up religious misconceptions about their faiths and to share their beliefs with other students. One student uses the chance to say the opening prayer before class as an opportunity to share his Muslim beliefs with his fellow classmates.

“During the start of the class they ask for a prayer, (and) I usually volunteer,” said Hammad Javed, a sophomore from Pakistan majoring in electrical engineering. “I volunteered yesterday, and I just recited the words from the Quran, and everybody just looked around. When I sat down like three people around me said, ‘That was really cool,’ so it’s kind of nice. We aren’t really different as human beings, it’s just we grew up in completely different places with completely separate religions. There are a lot of common things between the religions, but still there’s that difference.”

Utah Valley University opened a reflection center on campus this semester for students, faculty and the community to use to reflect, meditate and pray.

“It’s called the reflection center; probably in a private school it would be called a chapel,” said Linda P. Walton, president of the Utah Valley Ministerial Association. “It’s a 2,000-square-foot room divided into three sections. There’s a silent mediation or prayer room; there is a room for people who may pray out loud; and then there’s the third area, which is a library and a meeting room for small groups. If you have Muslim students, they have specified times when they pray during the day, and probably two or three of those times are when they’re at school. So they can use the reflection center for that.”

Scripture study at the weekly BYUSA Newman Catholic student club meeting.
The BYUSA Newman Catholic club gathers every week. Scripture study and religious discussion are staples at the meetings. (Annmarie Moore)

BYU does not currently have any place like this on campus, but some students believe the university could benefit from it.

“I think a reflection center on BYU campus would be beneficial in the sense that we get a place to pray but also in the sense that people from different religions can interact and you can find people who are essentially non-Mormons,” Javed said. “So that would be kind of a cool place.”

The BYU Student Association currently provides places for non-LDS students to meet on campus, pray together and enjoy the company of others who share their faith and beliefs, including the Muslim Student Association and the Newman Catholic Student Club.

For more information regarding these religious clubs and other BYUSA clubs and organizations, visit https://byusa.byu.edu.

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