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Faith in community

June 4, 2009

Finding strength through community

WHEN SHE CAME to PLU as a first-year student, one might excuse Bashair Alazadi for being slightly more anxious than most students. Alazadi is Shi’ite Muslim.

There might have been a few butterflies, she said, but that had more to do with going to college than on matters of faith. On that account, she says she has felt comfortable since the moment she first set foot on campus.

Bashair Alazadi

What does Muslim student Bashair Alazadi find in common with her fellow students?

“Everything just felt so nice – everyone was so welcoming,” she said.

Alazadi values community – it is an essential component of her family life and her Muslim faith. Her family fled Nasiriyah, Iraq, in 1990 after a failed uprising and a subsequent crackdown from dictator Saddam Hussein. After four years in a refugee camp in Saudi Arabia, she and her family landed in Everett, Wash. She was only four. The tight-knit Iraqi community of 100- or-so families has sustained her ever since.

Alazadi’s personal journey and faith traditions may be nothing like most of those at PLU, but she does find among students a common reliance in community. And there, she finds great comfort. She sees herself no different than so many other PLU students – thoughtful and curious, and genuinely interested in matters of faith.

She loves the fact that so many people are willing to ask her about her faith, and she loves to talk about it. And in doing so, she feels a strengthening of the connection both to her Muslim faith and to her fellow students.

“It is so cool seeing students go to chapel, that they too value that community,” she said. Alazadi typically doesn’t attend chapel herself – she does, however, use that time to pray. “It is a nice time to remember God in your own way,” she said.

For Alazadi, being spiritual means observing and maintaining the traditions of her faith community. She wears the traditional Iraqi head covering and dress, and she finds time to pray every day. “Spirituality means, even though I’m at PLU, I maintain the structure of my life.”