October 08, 2013

MISSION MATTERS: Many Voices: Fan the Flames

A SLU senior reflects on interfaith solidarity and working together to "set the world on fire."

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Growing up as a first generation Pakistani American Muslim, never once did I intentionally think that I would end up at a Catholic, Jesuit university. Fast forward, and here I am now, a senior about to graduate from Saint Louis University. When I think about a "Jesuit Institution," the first thing that comes to mind now, contrary to popular belief, is not about learning how to be a Christian. The Mission of Saint Louis University is the pursuit of truth for the greater glory of God and for the service of humanity. Jesuit institutions intend to create men and women for others, a tenet I hold very near and dear to my heart as a Muslim.

Going to SLU has challenged my preconceived notions and surprised me in many ways; the biggest surprise being that faith diversity can exist and thrive on Jesuit campuses. When I first arrived on SLU's campus, I found myself drawn toward the strong Muslim and interfaith student groups that were already well-established. These communities were able to express their beliefs and work in solidarity with their diverse neighbors. I found that this was possible because SLU was a Jesuit institution, rather than in spite of it.

As a strong advocate of interfaith dialogue, I believe we must intentionally build bridges across diverse traditions, and that it cannot just happen naturally. SLU's core Jesuit tenets of social justice and service unify the student body toward something greater than our own selves. My Muslim faith is my call-to-action and inspires me to serve my community, just as much as my friends' beliefs inspire them to give back. This common thread of service is something I have come to realize as one of the most powerful tools to build those bridges, and SLU's Mission truly institutionalizes that.

St. Ignatius of Loyola once said, Go forth and set the world on fire. Rewind a couple hundred years before that, and Islamic Persian poet Rumi stated, Set your life on fire. Seek those who fan your flames. SLU has helped me find and ignite that flame through my passion for social justice and service. My Jesuit education is one that has shaped my own personal faith identity as a Muslim, and as I complete my final year, I hope that I will find my way to set the world on fire.

— Sara Rahim, senior, public health and social justice

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