For the past three years, Claflin University has participated in the President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge by offering interfaith forums and awareness events that draw hundreds of student participants.
This year’s event featured a panel discussion that included representatives from Christian, Buddhist, Islamic and Hindu traditions. The focus was on the healing power of faith.
“The question of faith continues to be one of the most critical and urgent of our times,” said Dr. Johnny B. Hill, Claflin’s interim chair and associate professor of philosophy and religion, who co-moderated the event with the University’s Student Government Association Chaplain Deontez Wimbley.
“We continue to have conversations about the meaning of life, God, spirituality and healing,” Hill said. “At the forefront of dealing with this is how we live each and every day with our differences, how we relate to matters of faith and politics, with a particular emphasis on healthy, spirituality and wholeness.”
Questions posed to the panelists centered on what it means to be a whole, healthy human being, and whether or not faith plays a part of the healing process.
“Faith gives you the strength that you need to heal,” said Dr. Zia Hasan, Claflin’s vice president for planning, assessment and information services, in representing Islam. “There is a limit to the power that even we as humans have to heal. I have seen the miracles in those that medicine does not give a chance.”
The Rev. Kevyn J. Amos, of the Methodist tradition, said, “A person is a whole person – mind, body and soul.”
“The mind needs to be exercised, and because we are spiritual beings, we have to exercise our spiritual beings, as well,” Claflin’s interim chaplain said.
“You’ve got to have a balanced life,” said the Rev. Larry McCutcheon, pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church in Orangeburg. “We, at times, bring on illness” by not doing what we need to do to keep our mind, body and spirit healthy, he said.
Speaking from the Hindu perspective, Dr. Kumkum Singh of Interfaith Partners of South Carolina said, “Everything has to be balanced to be healthy. Before any problem comes, you have to be prepared with a balanced life. I use my faith as a guideline.”
The Rev. Leon Kackman of the Columbia Zen Buddhist Priory said his faith gives him a way of accepting and living with chronic illness.
"Faith comes into its own for me,” he continued. “The act of meditating is an act of stepping into faith. There is something much greater that my life and being are a part of.”
Kackman said there are three poisons in people’s lives – greed, hatred and anger, and misunderstanding or ignorance.
“We want what we don’t have, or what we don’t even need,” he said. “If we can actually just let go of that, there is a happiness and satisfaction and peace in letting that go.”
Dr. Elizabeth Yarborough, a Presbyterian who worked in palliative and hospice care for a year, said mind, body and spirit is who we as human beings are.
“The medical community is stepping up to see that the spiritual aspect” is important, she said, adding that it’s not easy being with someone who is in their last days or hours of life.
“However, it has been one of the most holy times I have ever experienced,” Yarborough said. “There’s something very sacred about being in that place, to walk with those people through those last days.”
However, having faith doesn’t mean you will not suffer from ills in the world, she said.
“I know people of great faith who struggle with deep depression,” Yarborough said. “But faith gives you the inner fortitude to fight through the depression. Faith can help you maintain, and is such an important undergirding of who we are.”
Claflin University was one of more than 250 institutions of higher education across America that participated in the President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge this year. The initiative stresses interfaith cooperation and reveals commonalities between our diverse communities.