Sensing a rise in anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in American culture and around the world, Anna Antonio-Vila, who said she grew up going to schools with diverse peers, was upset.
“It’s very unsettling to me because I believe that our religions are so connected and that we should not be fighting,” the government and international politics major from Spain said. “We should be helping each other.”
So, the Catholic sophomore at George Mason University posted on Twitter about her desire to form a club where people of Abrahamic faiths—Judaism, Christianity and Islam—could talk about religion and politics, connect and form a union.
Like-minded peers supported Antonio-Vila’s idea, she said, and the Abrahamic Union came together in Fall 2020.
The group meets over Zoom, and the hallmark of the club is its leadership structure.
“There’s a Christian, Muslim and Jewish president, so that we could all have equal footing and representation in the club,” Antonio-Vila said.
“I really like that this group bridges the gaps between the different faiths on campus,” said Allie Kaye, a sophomore global affairs major at Mason and the club’s Jewish president.
“In Student Involvement, we encourage all students to take initiative during their time at Mason,” said Sara Heming, associate director of student organizations. “The creation of this student organization contributes to Mason’s values: diversity is our strength; we honor freedom of thought and expression; and we thrive together.”
It is valuable, Heming said, as it provides a space for students to engage with peers who have different perspectives.
The discussion-based club meetings also delve into politics and social issues.
“We want to provide a safe space to openly discuss different topics from gender and sexual identity to crises around the world,” Kaye said.
“A lot of times, there’s a lot of homophobia within religious groups, so I also wanted to create a club where LGBT people could come,” Antonio-Vila said. “My dream for this club is that it would connect with other religious clubs at Mason, and also connect with the gay/straight alliance, NAACP, and similar clubs.”
It could be a way to challenge stereotypes and create greater understanding, the presidents said.
“What I love most about this group is being able to use my experience as a teacher of Islam for the past six years and clear up the misconceptions, as well as learn more about Judaism and Christianity,” said Rabia S. Malik, a sophomore biology major and the club’s Muslim president. “In a world where people are so divided over almost every subject, discourse, and theory, it’s important to have a group where religion can be spoken and learned about freely with respect and in a way students can enjoy themselves and make friends.”
Those interested in learning more about the Abrahamic Union and getting involved, can send a direct message to @abrahamicunion_gmu on Instagram, Antonio-Vila said.
“Everyone who is interested in joining should know that regardless of what religion you belong to, whether it be an Abrahamic one or not, your opinions and values always count and should be heard,” Malik said.