Religion

Muslim students at BGSU dedicate themselves to social justice

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Many people serve others because of the dictates of their religions. For Adam Smidi, it was his desire to serve others that led him to rededicate himself to Islam. As he read the Koran and about the prophet Mohammad, he found a calling. At the recent Muslim Student Association Convention at Bowling Green State University, Smidi said:  “I wanted to learn more about my religion that I was so far away from. I found that there was this element of social justice, like a pillar, or a backbone of the religion … treating yourself with dignity and treating others with the dignity that everyone deserves.” The Muslim Student Association has dedicated this year to reaching out to the community through service, Toghrul Alakbarov, president of the group, said. They will collaborate with others including plans to participate in the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service next year. The convention is attended both by members of the association and community members invited for a free dinner, conversation, and entertaining lessons about Islam as well as presentations on weighty matters. Smidi, now a doctoral student in organizational communication at BGSU, was born in West Virginia, making him a self-described “Muslim hillbilly” and grew up in Toledo. His family, though, frequently traveled back to Lebanon to visit. He was “growing up with two cultures, two identities, and loving them both, my American and Muslim identities.” He now runs his family’s car dealership. “What’s most important to…

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Muslim students build bridges with BG community

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Some bridges were strengthened Sunday between local Muslims, Christians and Jews. The ravine between Muslims and other faiths in America has grown during the past year – emphasizing the differences rather than the similarities between people of varying faiths. So on Sunday, Muslim students from Bowling Green State University, asked the community to join them for a “Meet the Muslims” gathering at the Wood County District Public Library. “This is how it starts,” a Muslim student said, pointing out that both Islam and Christianity  promote love for others. “We are all brothers and sisters in humanity. It’s on us to get to know one another.” Adnan Shareef, president of the Muslim student group, said that stereotypes are allowed to fester and grow if nothing is done to stop them. “All of us are affected by stereotyping,” Shareef said. “Unless we communicate and interact with people. Through interaction, stereotypes can change.” In the current political climate in the U.S., the community gathering was a serious undertaking for students of the Muslim faith. “It takes a lot of courage,” said Marcia Salazar Valentine, executive director of the BGSU International Programs and Partnership. But the students were not alone, reminded Bowling Green City Councilman Daniel Gordon. “Events like this today are needed now more than ever,” Gordon said, speaking of the “venom of Islamaphobia” being spread since the presidential campaign and election. He spoke of the growing number of hate crimes targeting Muslims, and the…


Scholar helps guide BGSU musicians toward Holy Week presentations of St. John Passion

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Mark Munson has been waiting for the academic and liturgical calendars to align. The director of choral studies at Bowling Green State University wanted a year when Good Friday fell late enough in the semester to allow time to prepare and present J.S. Bach’s St. John Passion on Good Friday. This is the year, and this past week the singers and musicians started the final phase of preparation. The passion oratorio, originally presented on Good Friday, 1724, is a large undertaking that involves soloists, the University Choral Ensemble, and the Early Music Ensemble, directed by Arne Spohr. To help this large contingent of students, faculty and community members prepare, a leading scholar and tenor Christopher Cock, of the Bach Institute at Valparaiso University in Indiana, visited campus. In the passion, Bach relates the story of Jesus’ trial and execution using the text from the Gospel of John, with reflections by soloists and the choir. Cock has sung the role of the evangelist in the St. John Passion 50 times as well as conducted it on several other occasions. His choir has been in residence at St. Thomas in Leipzig where the piece was first presented, a rare honor for an American choir. He was at BGSU as the Helen McMaster Endowed Professor in Vocal and Choral Studies. For many of the students involved this will their first time playing it. “I’m getting chills just thinking about you’re experiencing this work for the first time,”…


Bach expert to help prep BGSU musicians for Passion

From BGSU OFFICE OF MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS Renowned Bach expert and premier lyric tenor Dr. Christopher M. Cock will share his knowledge and love of the composer with students in the College of Musical Arts and local audiences March 13-15 as the 2017 Helen McMaster Endowed Professor in Vocal and Choral Studies at Bowling Green State University. Cock holds the Phyllis and Richard Duesenberg Chair in Lutheran Music at Valparaiso University and is director of its Bach Institute. During his residency, he will give a public lecture and work with the BGSU Collegiate Chorale, voice and conducting students and the Early Music Ensemble as they prepare to perform Bach’s “St. John Passion” in April during the Easter season. All events and activities are free and open to the public. Cock will discuss his life’s work in a public presentation titled “J.S. Bach and the St. John Passion: A Lifelong Pursuit” at 10:30 a.m. March 14 in 1040 Moore Musical Arts Center. In addition, audiences may hear the ensembles in performance, beginning with the Early Music Ensemble with soloists at 8 p.m. March 13 in the First United Methodist Church, 1526 E. Wooster St. in Bowling Green. On March 14, he will lead the University Choral Society at 7:30 p.m. in 1040 Moore Musical Arts Center. On March 15, he will again lead the Early Music Ensemble with soloists, at 8 p.m. in the First United Methodist Church. His visit will also include a voice master class and work with undergraduate choral conducting…


Community stands with Muslims over travel ban

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   During his 35 years in the U.S., Imam Talal Eid said he has never criticized an American president. Even during the campaign, when Donald Trump made hateful statements about Muslims, Eid held his tongue. “He’s the president, I’m sure things will be OK,” Eid said once Trump took office. Then came the executive order that effectively banned Muslims from seven countries from entering the U.S. And Eid, director of religious affairs at the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo in Perrysburg Township, cautioned church officials to pray for the divided nation but not criticize Trump. But then the stories came of families separated, Muslims returned to dangerous lands, people’s lives at risk. “I started to hear the tragedies,” Eid said. “I broke my silence. Innocent people are being harmed in the name of our nation.” Eid spoke Sunday afternoon to a mosque crowded with members and strangers who wanted to offer their support in the face of the travel ban. The audience overflowed out of the sermon room into prayer room. “This is the first time that I feel that my country, my president is trying to kill the morale of innocent people,” he said. He spoke of the agony that families already go through to get entry into the U.S. “You may not be aware that people sell their homes to come to America and have a good life,” the Imam said. Eid said he  has always clung to the Constitution, which…


Peace Lutheran powers Christian mission with light from the sun

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Peace Lutheran demonstrates its faith by the cross that rises high atop its steeple. The solar panels that were installed recently are also a demonstration of the congregation’s faith. “Here’s a faith expression that God is resourceful and generous,” said Pastor Deb Conklin. The solar panels fit in its Creation Care ministry. The solar panels were paid for by a behest from long-time neighbors Leonard and Margaret David. On Sunday, Feb. 5, at 10:30 a.m. the church will dedicate and give thanks for the solar panels and donation as part of its 10:30 a.m. worship experience. The donation was a surprise, Conklin said. The Davises were not members of a congregation, though Mrs. Davis did attend some of the church’s many community functions. Conklin had already been considering what environmental action the church could do and had attended an Ohio Interfaith Power & Light conference. She’d also discussed the environment and what the church could do with local activist Neocles Leontis. Then in 2014 the lawyer handling the Davis estate stopped by the church with a $5,000 check. That was, he informed her, just the start. She wasn’t at the church, she said, when the rest came. A check for $120,000. Conklin said the church already had a vision fund in place and that’s where the money was put. Working with Harvest Energy Solutions of Jackson Michigan, the solar panels were installed this winter, and have been operating for several weeks. The contractor also…


Debate over afterlife puts church through hell in “The Christians”

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Clearly Presbyterians don’t believe in bad karma. Otherwise the pastors and board of the First Presbyterian Church in Bowling Green would have thought thrice about hosting a production of “The Christians,” a drama about a church being ripped apart. The church lived up to its declaration on its sign outside as a welcoming congregation, and welcomed Broken Spectacle Productions into its sanctuary. Luke Hnath’s 2015 play “The Christians” is being presented Thursday and Friday at 7 p.m. in the church’s sanctuary. Tickets at the door are $20 and $15 for students. Tickets in advance are $15. Visit brokenspectacle.com. That’s a fortuitous setting for the play. After a small choir (William Cagle, Beth Felerski, and Lorna Patterson) directed by pianist Connor Long has offered a couple hymns, the pastor, Paul (Jim Trumm) steps out and greets the congregation. Given the stage is a sanctuary a moment of confusion ensues – is this a service or a performance? Trumm’s Paul is a warm, reassuring figure, glib but not quite unctuous. He’s certainly proud of what he’s built. As he details in the opening lines of his sermon, he built this church from a handful of worshippers in a storefront into a congregation of thousands with a church that has a bookstore, coffee shop and parking lot big enough to get lost in. This Sunday is one of celebration, he tells the congregation, because the mortgage on the church has finally been paid off. And the Sunday…