By: Rattus Norvegicus
A new set of policy guidelines introduced to the college’s Spiritual Centre will allow the centre to be more accommodating to all religions without jeopardizing its legitimacy.
The guidelines – ratified in early September by Student Services – allow off-campus religious communities to organize events through the Spiritual Centre. Previously, only groups that existed on campus were allowed to do so.
“If you want to start a meditation group, or you want to invite someone from outside, we can help you do that,” said Yuriy Derkach, 32.
Derkach is the co-ordinator of the Centre as well as an interdenominational minister for the Christian groups on campus.
Derkach believes these new guidelines will help make the centre accessible to students of varying religions while ensuring the communities coming in legitimately represent their professed faith.
“The people that come need to go through the screening process so that they can be officially recognized,” he said. “Students can be reassured that whatever’s happening here is a legitimate representation – it isn’t just anybody walking in. It is recognized and approved by the college and the respective communities.”
The Muslim Students of Algonquin is a group involved with the centre. Ihsan El-Batal, 20, has been the president of the group since February. As president, El-Batal helps ensure Muslim students have somewhere quiet to practice their faith.
“We’re part of the prayer room,” said El-Batal. “We facilitate the room so the Muslims can do their prayers.”
Every Friday afternoon, many Muslim students gather in the prayer room for the Friday prayer, the Jumu’ah. While they are obligated to pray every day, Jumu’ah is important as it brings the Muslim community together.
Adel Elmaghrabi, 53, has been the elected Imam of the college since 2010. The Imam is the spiritual leader of a Muslim community. As Imam, he gives lectures during Jumu’ah, though this opportunity is routinely offered to others as well.
“Students sometimes give the lectures,” said Elmaghrabi. “It gives them the opportunity to share different knowledge of Islam. Today’s lecture was about how to feel the Quranic message.”
As they are involved with the centre, the Muslim Students of Algonquin will be able to use the new policy guidelines to organize future events.
El-Batal hinted that they may have a few things planned for the upcoming year.
The centre already hosts events organized by many religious such as Christian worship services, Tai Chi demonstrations, Buddhist meditations, and interfaith discussion groups.
“We put our differences aside,” Derkach said. “We don’t argue here, we don’t fight, we don’t play politics. No games. We just come, open and discuss what actually unites us.”
“Love is what can save this world. There is one religion – love.”