*photo courtesy of NY Times
By Aidan Feulner
In the past year, religious hate, intolerance, and fear have grown to an alarming level. Some in the Gilman community believe that the violence has been going on for many years or maybe even since the beginning of humanity. However, with increased media coverage, we are more aware and afraid of these incidents. While the media has made the public more informed, it is widely believed that social media has also contributed to the increasingly widespread hate and intolerance. Dr. John Mojzisek, the school guidance counselor, explains that while humans have been attacking each other for a long time, the rise of social media is what fuels the expansion of hate messages. In addition, Tom Cottle (‘20), one of the student leaders of FOCUS Bible study at Gilman says, “I believe that violence has always been prevalent in our world, and that it just seems like it has increased in recent years because of the rise of social media. Everything is put online nowadays, so it is very easy to see all the problems from around the world.”
Unfortunately, the effects of the media are twofold. Not only does it help spread unsavory messages, but the constant coverage of traumatic events has led to the desensitization of many in the world and in the Gilman community. When asked about the topic, Saad Jalisi (‘19), one of the student leaders of the Southeast Asian Students Association, said, “Partially, yes, I believe that the seemingly constant, daily headlines of mass shootings or terrorist attacks has desensitized us to the hate and violence through our normalization of these types of events. It's almost as if seeing those unfortunate headlines has become a part of our regular schedules.”
Others in the Gilman community believe that media is not making these events of terror a big enough priority. The leaders of the Jewish Students Association, Matthew Grossman (‘22) and Carter Spain (‘21), feel “demoralized” by the fact that the recent shooting in San Diego received less coverage than the shooting in Pittsburgh, which occurred just six months before, because it happened on the same weekend as the premiere of Avengers: EndGame and episode three of Game of Thrones. Matthew and Carter both find that their religious gatherings, which were once solely focused on peace, love, and worship, have become places where they are fearful and tense. However, for others in the Gilman community, religion remains a safe and loving space. Tom Cottle states, “I do [feel safe]. My place of worship has been a constant throughout my life, so it is very familiar to me.” Dr. Mojzisek also feels safe in his place of worship. He explains that tragedy can happen anywhere and that you’re probably more likely to be hurt on the highway than in a church, synagogue, or mosque.
The most important thing to remember is that the main cause of all of this hate is ignorance. Some people make assumptions about groups based off of the actions of a few members that don’t necessarily represent the majority. Tom Cottle explains, “It makes me sad that religion is such a dividing force in our world. Religion should be something that brings people together in love and fellowship, yet people dement religious beliefs and sentiments all the time so that they can use it for their own selfish reasons. I think the world's religions need to do a better job in finding the common ground that they have, and through this, they will recognize all the good that they can do together if they foster healthy and supportive alliances.” In order to prevent the spread of hate and fear, people must do more to educate themselves and our community. Dr. Mojzisek believes “Knowledge promotes tolerance.” When people educate themselves about people who are different from them, they may find that they might not be so different after all. Saad Jalisi suggests, “Members of our community should seek to inform themselves outside of the classroom and school day. Instead of just simply listening to speakers during assembly, we should strive to find literature and articles separate from what is presented to us; thus, creating a more comprehensive and holistic perspective on the world around us.” Knowledge promotes tolerance. It is the duty of the Gilman community to pursue wisdom and attend affinity group meetings so that it may educate itself and create a better, more tolerant future.