By Jonathan Spicer
Two Arab student groups were established at Ryerson last week without knowing of each others’ existence.
The Ryerson Arab Students Association and the Ryerson Christian Arab Students Association were ratified as the newest groups on campus at the RyeSAC semi-annual general meeting last Wednesday.
The morning before, the groups’ two presidents met for the first time and agreed to focus on different services for students while working together in areas of shared interest, RASA president Mohammad Abousweid said.
“Had we known [of each other], we could have worked something out under one umbrella,” he said.
For now, the groups will stay separate but may look to unite in the future if they find their activities are similar, Abousweid said.
“After all, we’re all Arabs. The wonderful thing about the RASA is that it includes Christian, Muslim, Jewish Arabs, any faith. It’s very diverse,” he said.
While avoiding religious differences within the group, the RASA will hold educational events in Arabic about culture and members’ backgrounds and political stances in the world. Abousweid said if you dwell on religious differences, problems will occur.
“By having a different group that focuses on religion is a better thing for us,” he said, referring to the RCASA. “They can practice what they believe in and it will not conflict with other faiths; the Christian cannot reject the Muslim because he’s practising his religion.
“What I’m trying to do is create a diverse group … where everybody is equal, regardless of religion,” Abousweid said.
The RCASA, on the other hand, will hold some events in English and avoid talking politics, said it’s president Gaby Hanna.
“I’ve sat down with Mohammad [Abousweid] so we could talk together and work out conflicts,” Hanna said. “We’re not trying to separate Muslims and Christians at all. We have different aims: we’re spreading religion, they’re spreading politics. But we don’t contradict each other.”
The religious-based RCASA will discuss Christianity, evangelize and share the Gospel within the community, Hanna said.
The group is also open to non-Arabs and non-Christians who wish to learn about the culture or faith, Hanna said. “Even if you don’t know any Arabic, you can become a member with all of the English events.”
The RCASA will look to work with other Christian associations on campus for common events. At the same time, they share the RASA’s goal of uniting Arabs on campus and will co-organize information events on Arab countries, for example.
There are 36 recognized student associations at Ryerson, each with access to $800 from RyeSAC. The funding is divided into uses such as social events, printing, orientation and guest speakers, and only available to ratified groups with at least 20 members signed up.
Students who attended the general meeting voted decisively in favour of ratifying the two groups, with little discussion and only six votes against the RCASA.