Common Ground pursues unity


JJ Reed

Common Ground, a club of CSU Bakersfield, has members at their table at the Festival for Peace and Non-Violence, on March 30 at CSUB.

By Vincent Perez, Features Editor

Sumaiya Olia, 21, president of Common Ground, an interfaith club, heads into her second year in charge.  The club was formed in 2018, the first officially recognized interfaith club at CSUB. She mentioned the early struggles Common Ground went through their first year.

“When you’re trying to start a club, where there’s no guidebook, you have to set everything up yourself,” she said.

Olia said Common Ground wants to include everyone that wants to join despite religious or spiritual belief. “[We want] to make sure everyone has a voice and is involved,” she said.

Meeting other students from various religions and beliefs has shaped Olia.

“Your religious background should never define how you’re treated,” said Olia.

Jonathan Young, assistant professor of religious studies at CSU Bakersfield and Common Ground club advisor, takes no credit about the interfaith club forming. He said it was the students who did the work.

“We’ve been trying to have a bigger presence on campus,” said Young.

He said that he wants to help create a space where people feel comfortable talking about religion and spirituality. Agnosticism, wicca or atheism are accepted in Common Ground. Young wants the campus to know all students are welcome.

“You should feel safe talking about issues,” he said.

Recent terrorist attacks were not downplayed by the student-run organization.

“We wanted to find a way to respond to that,” said Young about the March 15 New Zealand terrorist attacks, in which 50 people died. CSUB and the Muslim Student Association (MSA) held a candlelight vigil on March 18 on campus.

Young wants more than just diversity in Common Ground.

“What we’re trying to promote is pluralism: Which means you actively engage other people, even if you don’t want to agree on difficult issues such as abortion, same-sex marriage or the death penalty,” he said. He added, “Just that you’re willing to hear the other person about it.”

Young, also the advisor for the MSA, wants to collaborate with other clubs on campus. Yet, he said that it’s up to their leaders to reach back out.
Ellen Ijebor, a club member attended Interfaith Youth Core in Chicago in 2017, an interfaith conference. After, she wanted to become involved in the interfaith group at CSUB.

“I’ve always been fascinated by how much religion plays a part in people’s lives and how much it influences society,” said Ijebor.

Ijebor plans events for CSUB events, specifically with the humanities department on campus. Taking place this week on campus is The Better Together Days Week, hosted by Common Ground and ASI.

“This organization is important because we have to have open discussions. This campus is diverse in its own way, but it could be more,” she said.

Olia said that Common Ground, with association from other clubs on campus, are working on a 2020 healthcare fair. The Better Together Days Week has begun already but students can still get involved by attending a workshop tonight titled “Express Yourself.” Students will be sharing poetry, readings and testimonies in the Dezember Leadership Development Center, room 402 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., hosted by ASI.