June 14, 2017 Edition

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Wright experiences world
religions on Chicago trip

Sara Wright is a 2014 graduate of Hoxie High School. She currently attends Harding University in Searcy, where she will graduate in December with a Bachelor of Science in Biology.
Submitted Photo ~ Sara Wright

Aubree Hughart
TD Intern

Sara Wright, a 2014 graduate of Hoxie High School, spent her first weekend in April exploring world religions in Chicago. During her spring semester at Harding University in Searcy, she chose to take a world religions class.

Many may have questioned Wright, a biology major, for taking a class so outside her course of study. However, Wright took the class with a purpose. "I chose to take this class because I think it's important to learn about people different from us so we can better understand and communicate with them."

The class was designed to enlighten students about people and practices of major living religious traditions of the world. As a class requirement, the 90 students traveled to Chicago. April 6-9 in order to visit various religious establishments and be immersed in the religious culture.

Beginning the trip on Friday, the students visited the Baha'i House of Prayer, the Hindu Temple Balaji, the Islamic Foundation mosque and the Sikh Religious Society. At each location, students had a tour guide and were able to participate in open forum discussions.

On Saturday, the group attended Shabbat service at KAM Isaiah Israel Congregations. Following service, they visited Soka Gakkai International to meet and visit with Buddhist locals.

Wright enjoyed participating in the Saturday Jewish service. She said, "The Rabbi did an excellent job of explaining their customs and practices so we could participate in the service as much as possible."

Although not a part of the class curriculum, on Sunday, the group chose to attend a Christian church on the outskirts of Chicago with a primarily African American congregation. This add-on made Wright realize something about her own religion as well.

"Before this trip, I would have been very uncomfortable [at the church] as their services were very different from what I was used to. I realized that a lot of what we get upset over as Christians doesn't really matter, as long as we follow the Bible," explained Wright.

The point of the trip was to enlighten students on world religions and erase any negative stereotypes students might have previously or unknowingly made. Wright said that in this sense, the class and the trip were most definitely a success.

"The trip allowed me to see how committed others are to their respective religions," said Wright. "Before the trip, I didn't really understand how people could follow religions that didn't make any sense to me."

Wright is firm in her Christian faith; however, she now realizes the appeal of some other religions and understands the core values.

She also says the trip made these religions hit a little close to home. "I am now able to put faces to these religions and I can better see the humanity of the adherents, and that the same humanity connects all of us."

Her eyes were radically opened on the trip after one specific encounter. While visiting the mosque, an older woman, tears in her eyes, approached Wright. The woman proceeded to grab Wright's hands and profusely thank her for her willingness to learn about her religion with an open mind and caring heart.

"While everyone we encountered was very nice and very welcoming, I probably felt the most welcomed at the mosque. I felt so safe and loved there, even though I was the most nervous about going there beforehand," added Wright.

Overall, Wright feels the trip was beneficial and enlightening in more ways than one. She has gained a new appreciation for other religions and even a new appreciation for her own. She now strives to live with an open mind and a caring heart, embracing and welcoming anyone she comes in contact with despite religion.

Sara Wright is the daughter of Mike and Laura Wright of Smithville. Upon completion of her biology degree, Wright plans to work for an agriculture company or at a state or national park. Her long term goal is to one day run her own cattle farm.

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