Learning While Fasting

Posted on November 9th, 2009 by

Students breaking the Ramadan fast, fix their plates. (Photo by Alex Messenger)

Students breaking the Ramadan fast, fix their plates. (Photo by Alex Messenger)

Written by Jenny Broman ’10

Sipping a morning coffee, eating lunch with friends in the cafeteria , or grabbing an afternoon snack on the go are second nature for Gusties. Yet, more than 160 Gustavus students made the choice to forgo their typical routines and participate in the 2009 Gustavus Day of Fasting in order to experience, for a day, the celebration of Ramadan.

Just after the sun went down on the Hill on Sept. 16, 2009 the group gathered for a traditional Breaking of the Fast dinner and talks by guest speakers.

“This year’s celebration not only provided students with a larger community event, it also provided an opportunity to promote cultural and intercultural dialogue at Gustavus,” says Alli Cooney, a senior psychology major and member of the Crossroads Program. Cooney and Abdul Suleyman, a senior accounting major and Pan Afrikan Student Organization leader, were responsible for coordinating the 2009 Day of Fasting.

Both student organizers view this type of opportunity as indicative of the importance placed on sculpting the welcoming and accepting environment present at Gustavus.

Suleyman relats, “The Gustavus students who participated in this event gained an understanding of the broader world and a deeper understanding of others. By not eating for one day, we are able to focus on better understanding our differences.”

For the two student leaders, learning about and impacting others has come not only through coordinating the Ramadan celebration, but also through broad involvement in the campus community. In addition to PASO and Crossroads, the two have been involved in numerous activities, including, Chaplain Apprentice Program, the Handbell choir, Big Partner Little Partner, the Diversity Leadership Committee, and soccer.

Reflecting on his experiences, Suleyman credits “the open community where each student is encouraged to be open-minded about a variety of topics and issues” as having a key impact on his life. Concurring, Alli adds, “We impact everyone we meet here at Gustavus. As individuals, we become more open-minded and more culturally aware the more involved we become. By being open and experiencing new things, we learn more about ourselves.”

For many of the students participating in the celebration, fasting was indeed a new experience, but one that helped them value diverse perspectives. “Fasting is a lot about reflection and self-discipline. The whole experience made me stop and think about what is important to me and others. So overall it was a good thing. I learned a lot, not just about Ramadan, but about myself,” says Katelyn Pedersen, a senior nursing major.
This has become an annual, student-organized event. The 2009 event was sponsored by Gustavus’ Crossroads Program, Pan Afrikan Student Organization (PASO), and Office of the Chaplains.


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