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Reader Opinion: Religious Tension in KAIST
[ Issue 103 Page 10 ] Friday, December 17, 2010, 21:43:48 Bruno Fink kaistherald@gmail.com

KAIST has students with all sorts of religious views. It shows how culturally diverse our campus is and that in a scientific environment, different religions may coexist peacefully. However, since the beginning of this semester we have seen an increase in religious manifestations. It started with club advertisements at the beginning of the semester, right after we saw students singing religious songs around the campus, and a couple of weeks ago there was a Christian hip hop group in front of the cafeterias. All these manifestations raised concerns between students and complaint from different religions. If this trend continues and nothing is done we might see a religious war in campus.

Every year during the clubs’ recruitment period, following the trend of other clubs, the religious ones advertise their ideals and try to gather new members. For no apparent reason, this year these clubs decided to advertise it for longer than the clubs’ application deadline. Several days during lunch time we heard songs from very cheerful students singing with all their hearts in front of the cafeterias. The righteousness of these actions is arguable but at least they were KAIST students manifesting their creed and properly identified.

Up till then, I still did not have an opinion about the religious manifestations on campus but something else was yet to happen: While waiting at the east cafeteria to buy food, a very kind woman came to me and introduced herself as a KAIST employee. Apparently she was only performing her job and interested about the food quality of the cafeterias. After a few minutes of conversation she completely changed the subject and asked me about my religion and if I would like to join the KAIST church. That, of course, infuriated me because she took advantage of her position in order to advertise her religion. This was not a KAIST student advertising his or her beliefs, but a person hiding behind her position to facilitate the approach to her victim.

Later on during the semester, things got worse. In the north part of campus I saw two vans packed with people and equipment. This was a group from outside KAIST that came here to perform hip hop dances in front of the north and east cafeteria. The purpose of their performances was not to entertain the students, but to gather more future followers to their religion. When it was just KAIST students promoting their clubs, it was still acceptable. A KAIST employee on duty advertising his or her religion is questionable at best. But a group of people from outside our community is completely inacceptable.

Imagine if all the Muslims, Buddhists, Catholics and followers of other religions decide to promote their religions during lunchtime in front of the cafeterias? After a short time we will not have enough time slots to accommodate all groups and they will start fighting for time, space and finally escalate to discussions about the righteousness of their beliefs. From that moment on we will have a religious war going on inside our campus.

We should prevent such conflicts from happening. It must start by forbidding people from outside KAIST to advertise any religion inside the campus. Also, KAIST officials on duty should refrain from advocating their religious beliefs. Finally, students should have limitations on where and when they can advertise their creeds. It is not to forbid students from exposing their ideals, but to set a limit. No minorities should be disrespected, they all must be able to have equal time and place to advertise their beliefs. Also, people who do not want to be part of any religious groups should be respected and not bothered. Measures like these are necessary to keep our campus multicultural and peaceful.

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