Activism and Faith


Faith and activism.png

By: Shourouk Abdalla

Personally, before entering Depaul I have always been a person who questions ‘what must be done’. A person who fights injustices in everyday situations. This is an Islamic principle that I have grown to know very well, the Prophet PBUH said if you see something wrong, fix it with your hand, and if you cant fix it with your hand, speak of it with your tongue, and if you can’t do that, dislike it inside your heart and that is the weakest of faith. So as a Muslim we must oppose evil in an active and principled nuanced way, we must actively help, assist, and figure out ‘what must be done’. And this is the question St. Vincent spent his life answering. St. Vincent’s faith gave him a vision of how the world should look, in much of the same way so does Islam, therefore acting upon faith is a common ground and can invite anyone of all faiths and backgrounds to the Vincentian family and its values.

This reminds me of a Quick story: when the Prophet PBUH saw a man in a street and asked the man he was with, what do you think of this man, the man he was with responded by saying he is the noblestest of men and any woman would take his hand in marriage in a heartbeat. He later asked another man, ‘what do you think of this man’ and the man said this man?! He is the poorest of all muslims, and no women would ever accept his hand in marriage, no woman would ever consider him for marriage and he also added that no one will ever listen to him when he speaks because he is not worth listening too. Then the prophet pbuh said this man has more value than the noblest man and the entire mighty earth combined than to the wealthy man you compare him to.
Only today I realized that this is a Vincentian value. What I like about St. Vincent is that he didn’t like the statuesque, he saw countless men, women, infants and children living at the margins, people who had gone hungry, people experiencing homelessness, victims of war, orphaned children, and elderly left alone, people who did not receive adequate health care, no educational, employment, or economical opportunities. And so he tried to work upon that and figure out ‘what must be done’.

So this all inspires me, and reassures me I’m on some right path in my career and life.

You don’t have to be an activist to uphold this, just think of St.Vincents values within every day actions. Actively do good. Teaches you how to lead.


Hatred: One of the Three Poisons


By: Melanie Kulatilake

“[They] abused me, [They] struck me, [They] overpowered me, [They] robbed me.” Those who harbor such thoughts do not still their hatred.

“[They] abused me, [They] struck me, [They] overpowered me, [They] robbed me.” Those who do not harbor such thoughts still their hatred.

            -Quote from the Buddha in the Dhamapada Chapter 1

The experience of abuse, being stricken, being overpowered, or robbed is an experience anyone can have at some point in their life. These experiences may seem like causes for hatred towards the one that has done you wrong but, Buddha argues that this will only make you feel unhappy in the end. As people, we hold onto angers from the pettiest things to the most life changing events. The quote above, within the context of Buddhist ideals, means that all hatred no matter how justified it may seem is damaging to ones sanity and happiness.

It is important to understand this quote from the perspective of a practicing Buddhist. In Buddhism there is no right or wrong way to live or act. The Buddha is understood only as a human being and therefore recognizes that he has no right to tell us how to act or behave. The Buddha believes that you have to come up with realizations of life from your own experiences. That is why the Buddha simply states and does not demand that you “still your hatred.” It is important that you recognize yourself the damages hatred causes.

Hatred: the strong resentment you hold for another. We seek to justify our hatred. However, the Buddha would argue that there is no justified hatred. Hatred can be caused by many things, form the smallest acts to the most extreme offensive. WE can all imagine the smallest things that cause distain towards another. In such extreme offenses like physical abuse, molestation, robbery, verbal insult, and mental destruction, hatred may seem justified. Some might argue that a person who faces such dire abuse is justified in their hatred because they have been extremely wronged. Yet, Buddhist would still argue that hatred is never warranted.  The one who hates is the person who hurts the most in the end rather than the one being hated.

Harboring hatred is physically and psychologically damaging to oneself. Scientists have proven time and time again that holding onto anger generates toxic chemicals in your body. The renowned Doctor Davis Suzuki says in “‘The Sacred Balance’, ‘condensed molecules from breath exhaled from verbal expressions of anger, hatred, and jealousy, contain toxins. Accumulated over 1 hr, these toxins are enough to kill 80 guinea pigs!’”. Though hatred can be physically damaging it often feels right.

Focusing on the positives when someone is acting in a way that is inhuman is not an easy task and nor should it ever be considered one. Reaching the understanding that hatred is not healthy for you is difficult. A Tibetan Monk by the name of Palden Gyatso was imprisoned for 33 years by the Chinese. He faced unspeakable tortures by the guards who had no respect for him as a human being. In his memoir he reflects, “when I was being tortured by my guards, I had immense hatred against them because I was being hurt. But, as a religious person, after the event I could reflect on what had happened, and I could see that those who inflicted torture did so out of their own ignorance. As a religious person I have to sit back and ask myself, what is all this? Buddhist teachings say, don’t let your calm be disturbed and do not respond to anger with anger.’” He realized that more hatred would not solve his problem. The only way for him to attain peace was to observe his circumstances and find a solution. He chose to no let hatred control him.

Sometimes we may find it difficult to relate our actions to religious leaders like monk Gyatso because we may not practice our religion in such depth. The Buddha teaches that giving up hatred and finding inner peace should be a reality of being a human. Alice Sebold is a rape victim and she realized that in order for her to live a happy life she would have to let go of her hatred towards her attacker. Alice struggled to tell her attacker “I forgive you,”… I said what I had to. I would die by pieces to save myself from real death.” She realized she would slowly kill herself on the inside if she never let go of her anger.

How you react to a situation is what you have control over. You have the ability to still your hatred. Holding onto your anger only hurts you in the end. Buddha’s message is that you deserve a life where you can move on and find happiness by letting go of hate. Letting go of hatred, thereby, making room for the positive aspects of life will lead to inner peace.








What Being an Interfaith Scholar means to Me



By: Shourouk Abdalla

In a world as chaotic as today where people shun others because of their differences, interfaith dialogue is necessary. Focusing on what makes us different creates a lack of communication thus more space for large and negative assumptions about each other. Being from the Middle East, I sure do know a thing or two about religious divide, however, I believe that is out of ignorance of each others faith and people dehumanizing each other. Everybody, and I mean everyone, has engaged in interfaith dialogue here at DePaul. It happens all the time, as humans we are in a constant flow of interactions and citizens of today are much more connected to each other than people centuries ago. So just because you did not know that one guy you talked to in your Bio lab the other day was a Muslim or Buddhist doesn’t mean you’ve never met a Muslim or Buddhist before.

As an Egyptian, I put a strong importance on people of different faiths coming together.  Muslim Egyptians take pride in their Christian brothers and sisters as Christian Egyptians do the very same. This is one of my favorite aspects of Egypt and humanity as a whole because seeing people of different faiths hold hands and protect each other, especially in areas of conflict, is one of the most beautiful sights to see and experiences to be apart of.

Being an Interfaith scholar to me means I get to openly represent and uphold my Islamic faith in an acceptive environment while learning about and experiencing other faiths. Even though Chicago is a global city filled with worldly citizens who are open to differences because they are used to it, this is not the case all over America. My faith specifically, is constantly hated on by the media and actively attacked in the streets on a regular basis here in America. I’m here to show what an average day college Muslim girl looks like. It is more than important to have interfaith dialogue, as humans we should be obligated to because that simple understanding of each other and acceptance would make the world a much better place than where we’re at today.

What We Do: Interfaith scholars create a space for weekly interfaith dialogue where we openly discuss our faiths, share prayers, explain traditions, and talk about our own personal experiences. Besides hosting large-scale inter-religious campus events we are also open to attending and facilitating any group if a Professor needs a student to talk about a certain topic to their class or if students have their own personal questions.


The Significance of Adolescence

never easy

By: Elijah Obasanya

Sometimes I think going through life can be analogous to getting steamrolled by a truck. It sounds rather harsh, but it is definitely the truth. Not to say that life is a daily struggle, but it sure does seem like it for a lot of folks in this world. I’ve gone through a lot in my life, and I think that it is rather important to understand that the smallest of factors, can have the most dramatic effect on someone. From my perspective, there was a multitude of factors that have affected my life, however I would like to focus on one time in particular: adolescence.
Adolescence for me was like oxygen in a vacuum, fire in outer space, or almost like a fresh foods grocery store in a predominantly black community. It was nonexistent, a fantasy, an illusion that kept true adolescence consistently eluded from me. I’ve always thought that I had an acceptable or normal adolescence. It is hilarious to think about this because it has become crystal clear that it was so nonexistent to the extent that I was completely unaware of what adolescence even meant. Up until very recently, adolescence meant simply living and going through the motions of teenage years. Hilarious right? I was so lost on what true adolescence meant, that I was unable to even determine the quality of my adolescence.
There are a variety of reasons as to why I consider my adolescence nonexistent, however I would rather talk about how it has led to the person that I am today, and the person I’m steadily growing into being. It all started with a self-assessment. I am unaware of when it happened exactly, but it is something that has definitely been occurring more and more recently. I began to think about who I am, the person I want to be, and where exactly I want to go in life. Not in the vein of occupation or life goals, but more so on the type of person I am, the values that I want to hold dear, and the people I consider to be vital in my life. If I were to answer these questions today, one would only need to look up at the stars in the night sky to get a sense of what the answers would be. Beautiful, but a scattershot. Seemingly disordered, and completely unorganized.
It was at this moment that I began to realize that I’ve only truly begun to live through my adolescence, my real adolescence. My teenage years was such an ordeal that I realized I couldn’t possibly fit an adolescence in the chaos that was life at the time. A rose tinted perspective would be one that is joyful of the fact that adolescence has at least begun. Many people go through life without contemplating who they are, what their top values should be, what they would stand for, and what they would die for.
Though my answers to these questions would look like the night sky, a jumbled series of stars with seemingly no direction and order, underneath the mess is gravity. An underlying force that has kept the stars in the same motions and positions spanning from thousands of years in the past, and will continue for thousands of years into the future. To fully complete my adolescence, all I need is to sift through the confusion and uncertainty of who I am. I say this because ultimately I know that the answers to these questions have been there all along. Just waiting for me to find it.

Are faith and religion one in the same?


By: Nicolette Prociuk

I’m losing my faith. Or at least that’s what this feels like. And yet everyone’s telling me that it’s healthy to constantly question my beliefs but my beliefs aren’t what I’m questioning. It’s balancing who I am with what I’ve always believed. Sure I don’t receive Christ every week like I’m supposed to and I am constantly breaking the Ten Commandments. I have no idea when the last time I went to Confession. According to my mother I am impure to receive the Eucharist because I identify as Bisexual. I have broken the rule of abstinence. I haven’t read the Bible in years yet I have never felt closer to my faith because of DePaul. By living out being a Vincentian I have felt so close to the true meaning of being a Catholic. Sure going to mass and praying are key components to Catholicism but that’s not our purpose or meaning. Where is the action? We are told to be like Christ yet we reside in our safe churches every weekend and ignore that person experiencing homelessness as we walk out of mass that Sunday. Where is the justice in that? If we preach about how great Jesus was and aspire to take action like Him why don’t we practice what we preach?

Many Catholics cringe at the word social justice. It’s too liberal or too dramatic but yet is basically what Jesus did, he went to the poor. He didn’t “serve” them, he was one of them! But in the same way we must question authority and those that put the lowest of society into these conditions the same way Jesus Christ questioned the high priests. We must question the authority of these political figures who promise all this honesty and don’t deliver. While we put band aids on outside issues we must conquer and go straight to the source on the inside to end this struggle many human beings go through that so many others profit off of.



Saint Vincent de Paul was born on April 24th, 1581 in a village in Gascony, France. Saint Vincent was a French priest of the Catholic Church who was famous for dedicating his life to help the poor. He founded the Congregation of the Mission in 1625, which are also known as Vincentian. They are a group of followers of the Vincentian mission who dedicate their lives, much like St. Vincent de Paul, to the service of others who are in the dire need. Based on the fundamentals of the Vincentian mission DePaul University strives to form an appreciation and understanding of the modes to higher education in culture, society, religion, moral values, and service.

Saint Vincent also elaborated that it is important for us to create a whole family of God, or a community. A community that is even diverse to come to gather to work for the greater good. It’s our mission to create a community who dedicates themselves in the servitude of helping those who are less fortunate. This entails, creating a community of diversity even in the aspects of religion.

Interfaith Scholars are students who join together from various religious backgrounds to perform, and educate the four ways of Dialogue. It is our duty as Interfaith Scholars to encourage discussions, between people and groups of various religious beliefs. We strive to create a safe environment to discuss the diversity within our perspective through events like Interreligious Celebrations, Retreats, and Movie Nights.

Our goal is to raise tolerance and awareness of varying spiritual traditions. We want to form a culture for DePaul that provides openness to religion, spirituality, and philosophical background. We provide service to the general body of students who may lack the key dialogue that unites us all as people.

How the Interfaith mission relates to St. Vincent’s ideals of creating a community, all of whom are the family of God in Vincent’s eyes, from all different ethnic, cultural, religious, economical and racial backgrounds. We are striving to share with our community the knowledge and education to form this diverse community. Vincent’s philosophy and ideas helps us as people to understand that we are different and a like in many ways beyond and within our spiritual ideals. We follow in St. Vincent’s footsteps in creating a more accepting and giving community

– Melanie Kulatilake

Vincentian Moments

Part of our work with the Interfaith Scholars is to make moves to draw people closer together through our different faiths. Our purpose is to transcend differences and better understand one another and the role that our faith plays in our day to day lives. One of the ways that the scholars do this is by creating what we call Vincentian Moments. These moments take an aspect of each faith tradition and draw a comparison to an aspect of St. Vincent Depaul’s teachings. 

The first installment comes from Scholar Thano Prokos who decided to on his own background in the Greek Orthodox Faith.

St. Vincent says,

 “Our Lord humbles in order to raise up, and allows the suffering of interior and exterior afflictions in order to bring about peace. He often desires some things more than we do, but wants us to merit the grace of accomplishing them by several practices of virtue and to beg for this with many prayers.”

In “Taking the More Excellent Way,” Fr. Anthony Hughes talks about the story of St. Mary of Egypt and uses it to explain on how we make use of personal suffering. He argues that our trials and suffering are the things that make us grow and we become beautiful human beings.

St. Vincent stresses the same idea, that when we are humbled in our lives it’s our duty to rise back up.  What both men are saying, is that the hardships we face are not necessarily what we should focus on. We shouldn’t be consumed by our grief. Rather, it’s important to focus on what the next step is. How do we respond to tragedy? Both men encourage a detachment from the experience of grief and a focus on the divine through prayer.

Vincent asks us to say our own personal prayers to God with the hope that our prayer focuses our attention on what is good and how we can strive to be better. Fr. Anthony asks us to pray for others, particularly those who hurt us. The goal of this practice is less “divine intervention” but more to remind us that those who hurt us are every bit as human as we are. It changes our perception of them from the evil other into someone that we can be compassionate towards in the hopes that in the future, we can demonstrate our growth by meeting  hostility with love.

Vincentian Service Day brings students closer to community – News – The DePaulia – The student newspaper of DePaul University


DePaul students and faculty participated in DePaul’s annual“Vincentian Service Day” May 4, where students

Courtesy of Taj Simmons: DePaul students garden outside of the Zakat Chicago Community Center dur- ing Vincentian Service Day May 4. This is the 13th year the community service event has been held.
Courtesy of Taj Simmons:
DePaul students garden outside of the Zakat Chicago Community Center dur- ing Vincentian Service Day May 4. This is the 13th year the community service event has been held.

volunteer at sites across Chicago in a super-charged day of service. DePaul volunteers cheerfully flocked to McGrath Arena at 8 a.m. on Saturday where they partook in some interfaith prayers and were sent off to their respective service sites. The cheerful demeanor of all those present was derived from the knowledge of the good they were doing in their community.


DePaul’s Jewish Life coordinator, Matthew Charnay, took a moment to describe the idea behind Vincentian Service Day.


“It is something that staff and students look forward to all year. The chance to get out into the community and do work with your fellow classmates is such a positive experience,” said Charnay. “The ability to stand in solidarity with not only peers, but fellowChicagoans, people of faith and standing together as a community, not just a school community but a world community, is a highlight for the entire university.”


It seems that Charnay voiced exactly how DePaul students feel about this day. “(Vincentian Service Day) is important because it teaches DePaul students to look beyond themselves,” said Taj Simmons, DePaul junior andVSD team leader. “Too often in college we become self-absorbed and block out what’s going on all around us, and Vincentian Service Day really gives us a chance to go beyond what we know.”


Simmons also noted how much it has expanded over the years.


“It’s grown so much since I was a freshman. My first year, all of the service groups started inside of the (St. Vincent de Paul church) before leaving for their work. Going from that to the quad last year to McGrath Arena this year is just an amazing leap forward. I never thought there would be so many people dedicated to taking action to keep Chicago as glorious as it is, but now that I know there are, I can’t help but feel elated.”


Charnay echoed Simmons’ sentiment in regards to the day’s steady growth over the years. “We keep expanding the number of service sites that we visit and this year we even had students and families come to DePaul for activities.  It will only continue to grow. When you have such a great program and everyone involved can see the wealth of positivity and justice that is the end product, it makes it very easy to keep growing that program. I can only see it getting bigger in years to come.”


The community members who benefited from this day had positive things to say as well. Laila Muhammad, director of Zakat Chicago Community Center gushed about DePaul students who planted a vegetable garden at the community center. “The students were very helpful. The garden really brightened up the area,” said Muhammad. “It’s something that will continue to benefit the community. Last year when we had the garden, a boy had never had red lettuce before, but now he asks for it like candy. It can change a person’s life and encourage more nutritious eating.” In this way, one day of service can have lasting effects on a community.


“I think (the service day) is great,” said Muhammad. “I think that it shows DePaul’s understanding of the holistic approach to education. You can’t just teach in the classroom, you have to go out and experience life.”


That appears to be precisely what DePaul’s Vincentians in Action are hoping to achieve. Indeed, Charnay said “It is one thing to talk the talk, but when we give students the outlet to walk the walk of service, they have a chance to experience firsthand the mission that drives this university to new heights.  To take something theoretical (and) intellectual such as the ‘dignity of every human life’ and make it tangible, the lesson is better received, and it gives students time to reflect on their work.”

Vincentian Service Day brings students closer to community – News – The DePaulia – The student newspaper of DePaul University.

By Anne Malina

Published: Sunday, May 12, 2013

Updated: Sunday, May 12, 2013 20:05


Digital Story: Realities of El Salvador

So 5 months ago I went to El Salvador for a Service Immersion Trip. And once I returned, I wrote a small blog about my experience, “Realities of El Salvador.”

This quarter, I took a digital story class and we were asked to talk about something impactful. A digital story is a short film filled with photographs and audio. It is simple, easiy and to the point. With this assignment, of course my trip to El Salvador stuck out at me. It has definitely been a couple of months, but that experience is still with me. I hope you enjoy my work, and here is my digital story:

Digital Story: Laura Mena


Laura E. Mena ’14

Spring Quarterly Interreligious Celebration: Life, Death, and Social Justice

Life, Death, and Social Justice

As the tragedy of the Boston Marathon bombings circulated around the news outlets, the DePaul University community stood shocked and worried. All of the faculty, staff, and students called their loved ones, and checked up on each other’s family and friends. Coincidentally, the Interfaith Scholars had been planning for their Spring Quarterly Interreligious Celebration with the theme revolving around, Life, Death, and Social Justice. The evening usually holds four significant segments. The first, is an opening prayer, which was held by DePaul Community Service Association, University Minister Rubén Álvarez, who asked the audience to center their minds, bodies, and spirits in order to be present. The second, is the opening introduction of the theme usually done by a short talk. The DePaul community was honored to have Sr. Helen Prejean talk about her interfaith experiences and the ways in which they effected the way she perceives life, death, and social justice. The third segment of the evening was composed of short-story performances and prayers by three DePaul students, Dana Jabri (Muslim), Tom Miller (Agnostic), and Josh Sushan (Jew), each of whom reflected on occurrences of life and death in their lives. Below is Tom Miller’s reflection and story he shared with the audience.

“I want to share a story which I think touches each of these themes: Life, Death and Social Justice. And then try to explain how I addressed them as someone who identifies as an Agnostic. For the past two summers I have been volunteering at a summer camp called Camp Courage. This camp is only a week long. This is a grief camp for people who are connected to a recent death. There are about 40 or so kids who go there each year, all between the ages of 6 and 13. Each and every one of these kids lost someone close to them, parents, friends, aunts, uncles, even siblings.

I remember very clearly the story of Alex. Alex was about 9 years old when I was introduced to him. I soon learned he had a twin brother. Alex liked to swim and was on a swim team. One day their mom drove them to a swim meet. But as they were on their way to the swim meet, a garbage truck sped through a red light and crashed into the car Alex’s mom was driving. Alex’s twin brother was instantly killed and the crash only mildly wounded Alex and his mother.

When I was talking to Alex he would ask questions like, “Why did I have to live and he die?” He felt guilty for living, he felt like he was wrong to be alive, to be given life when his brother had his life stripped away because they were going to Alex’s swim meet.

 So as an Agnostic how was I supposed to approach this situation? Was I supposed to talk about the meaning of life? About Karma, an afterlife, Heaven, Hell, God? I didn’t know what faith his parents were raising him with. Should I talk about morality, or all the philosophical ideas I have been learning about for the past few years? Where was Social Justice? What would Social Justice say I should do? What about that garbage truck driver? Should he be thrown in jail for the rest of his life? What if it was an accident?

What was I supposed to tell to a 9 year old about life and death? Especially when I had no idea what I thought of it, or am still trying to figure out what to think of it. I did not want to tell this little boy that he will see his brother in heaven. I didn’t know that, I wasn’t sure of that. I’m still not sure of that. I didn’t want to lie. I wanted to tell him something, to comfort him, to give him something to believe in, something to give his life meaning. But should I be the one to give meaning to someone else’s life? I didn’t want to sugar coat anything, but I also knew that I couldn’t give him a long philosophical lecture based on everything I had been learning at DePaul.

What I ended up doing was listening to his story. I looked him in the eye and I smiled. I shared with him a moment of my life simply listening. The only thing I knew at that point in time was that I cared for this boy. While I have never lived his life or went through what he went through I understood that there was an intense struggle he was going through. At that moment I knew that he was not alone, and that I was also not alone. As an Agnostic I realized that I don’t know how to answer these questions, but I think we should be okay with talking about them.

Now, when I go to camp courage this upcoming summer, I’m going with the goal of trying to make kids smile. I think sometimes we forget how to smile or how to have fun and we all need to be reminded every now and then.

One of my favorite intellectuals to quote is Einstein. With all his knowledge and wisdom, he wrote this, ‘The life of the individual has meaning only insofar as it aids in making the life of every living thing nobler and more beautiful…'”

– Thomas Miller 

Knowing that the Anti-Death Row activist and spiritual guider Sister Helen Prejean was going to present the opening remarks introducing the theme of the evening, as a group, the Scholars began to think of ways in which we could get the campus students’s ideas, thoughts, and topics they wanted to discuss after the introduction was given, as the interreligious dialogue activity for the evening. The idea was to get the students to form discussions that came from their own quandaries. So we collected questions, topics, and ideas from the 200+ students that were present. For the last segment of the evening, we invited the students and audience to participate in meaningful discussions about the ways in which life, death, and social justice effect the ways in which we percieve our faith traditions, and as students of the DePaul community.

Some of the questions suggested:

What about your religious tradition do you find life-giving?

Do you feel the responsibility to engage in social justice work? How does your personal faith tradition or belief system inform your answer?

What do you hope to do in your life before you die?

Sr. Helen Prejean talked about the tragedy of the Boston Marathon, how do we as a DePaul community provide support to the Boston community?

As the event came to an end, the faculty, staff, and students had for the last time this school year, reflected as a community on their individual faith values to the roles that life, death, and social justice play within one’s life.

– Dana Jabri ’15