By GRETA RAULEAC
John Cabot University (JCU) students consider the Meditation Garden a positive space that responds to needs of people of all ages and types. Students support tolerance and integration and do not think religion should be left outside a secular university.
“We are not at university only to study, but we are also here to learn about different things in life and one of them is to worship God,” says Elizabeth Anane, 28-years-old from Ghana. She says she will not use the Meditation Garden because as Christian she can pray at home and go to Church. “Some people cannot pray at home,” she says.
Anyla Dautaj, 21-years-old, thinks universities need a space for religion. She was member of Student Government when the Interfaith Initiative was raised and she supported the initiative. “I don’t think I’m going to use it but people asked for it so that means that people needed it,” she says. “I don’t pray, but my fellow Muslims pray five times a day, using the Meditation Garden they don’t get ridiculed in front of other people while praying in Tiber Cafeteria. It happened that some people were praying and they felt awkward as others where staring at them,” says Dautaj. In her country, Kosovo, schools have a place dedicated to religion, she says.
Rya Saqer Alraisi, 20-years-old from Abu Dhabi, is a Muslim freshman who thinks a meditation space is not necessary in an institution. She was not aware of the Meditation Garden and she says she did not look for a place dedicated to religion in Rome. “I usually do my mediation home,” Alraisi says. “In Arabia there are mediation spaces in schools but before coming to Rome I was studying in Portugal and there weren’t any there,” she says. “I will check this new mediation garden and if I like it maybe I will use it but I don’t think it is necessary,” she says.
Alexandra Klimowicz, 22-years-old, says she was very confused by the opening of the Meditation Garden. “What is the purpose of having a religious space in a secular university?,” asks Klimowicz. “If you come to a school that has no religious affiliation it is strange to have a place that represents all religions.”
Many students however find the new interfaith garden as a wide meditation space and they are not disturbed by eventual religious identification. Cristian Tracci, a 20-years-old student from Milan, says that “religious discussions should always be encouraged in an open university.”
The meditation garden was officially opened on September 30. It was created from the collaboration between Interfaith Initiative, Student Government and Grassroots. It features benches covered by colored pillows along the sides, an artificial turf on the ground with yoga – mattresses available and some plants here and there. It is located at Guarini Campus in the Kushlan Wing, near the Writing Center.
People are not planning to use it only for religious purposes. “I think it will be perfect for my nap time,” says Christine Modafferi, a 23-years-old Italian student. “It is a good way to find ourselves a moment to think and take some time off from our frenetic life.”