This post was originally published on the McGill Christians Blog.
By: Ajoy Paul
August 28th, 2014 changed my life.
I was born on November 5th, 1996 along the coast of the Indian Ocean in the Indian state of Kerala. India is a secular country, and the nation houses a population of 1.2 billion people with about eighty percent Hindu, thirteen percent Muslim, and the rest of the percentage being divided among Christians, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists and other minority religions. With only 2.1% of India’s population being Christian, it is a very vulnerable group to the various religious extremists trying to wipe out religious minorities. It was into this demographic into which I was born.
When you are a minority in anything, you not only try to survive, but you strive to thrive. The Christian community in India is one of the most vibrant communities in the country, with prestigious schools, world-class health care facilities, various charity works, and political leaders coming from the community across the country. All these people, establishments, and deeds are rooted in one person – Christ. It is Christ who protects us, Christ who helps us, and Christ who leads us. Most of us experience the love and presence of Christ from a young age through the rigorous Catechism classes that strengthen our faith. It was these classes, and the nunnery that I studied in, that helped me reinforce my faith. When my family decided to move to Canada in 2002, I came to Toronto already strong in my faith.
In Toronto, I attended publicly-funded Catholic schools. The Catholic school system further strengthened my faith, this time not only in mind- but through actions. By the time I graduated grade twelve, the Catholic school system provided me opportunities to live out the Gospel and experience the “Joy of the Gospel” in myself and in those I helped. It was with all this religious foundation that I went into the night of August 28th, 2014.
August 28th, 2014 was the first day of Science frosh, the orientation week for first year science students. It is the first day of “freedom” for many students. Freedom from parental supervision, and the freedom of living by yourself for the first time. For numerous students this first taste of “freedom” provokes them to do many inappropriate and harmful things.
So here I was stuffed in an apartment with one hundred other kids on the night of August 28th, and in every direction I look there is something that I see which the Catholic Church deems sinful. The scenes around me provoke in me various questions about my faith. Up until that point all my questions about faith were superficial, but after that night I began asking myself serious questions about my faith- not questions to undermine my faith, but questions to strengthen it.
Why does God let people do sinful actions? Why does God make bad thing happen to good people? Why does God not interfere in our daily actions like he did with the Israelites in the Old Testament?
I searched, and I searched, but to no avail- and it was when I was about to give up that the path to my answers came in the way of a phone call. The call was from a young girl named Katie who said she was the Vice President Outreach for the Newman Catholic Student Society. She said she got my number from a sheet I signed a while back looking for a Catholic chapel on campus. She invited me to a talk they were having that afternoon at the Newman Center, and I decided to go out to the event.
The event was a fantastic talk about “Religion in Academia,” but the people at the event is what made it extraordinary. The community at the Newman Centre was so warm and welcoming that I fell in love with the Centre right away. I began going to the Center many times a week. Through my various interactions with the people there, and the various faith based activities that we did, all of the questions that I came up with on August 28th were answered. The Newman Centre was a God sent message to me. It strengthened my faith so much, I was able to run and win the position of Vice President Outreach for the Newman Catholic Student Society- the position that was the path to my answers.
Being a Christian on a secular campus is difficult, and you may come across moments like I did in which you start to question your faith. But never make those questions harm your faith, but instead make them questions that strengthen your faith. God Bless!