a journal of analysis and comment
advancing public understanding of religion and education
Vol. 34 No. 3
Michael J. Maher, Linda M. Sever, & Shaun Pichler
The terrorist acts of September 11th, 2001, set off a series of events that have shaped life in the United States. On October 7, 2001, the U.S. invaded Afghanistan. The Taliban surrendered on November 25, 2001. In December of 2001, the U.S. government began designating some large U.S. Muslim charities as terrorist organizations, including Illinois-based Global Relief Foundation and Benevolence International Foundation, both of which had their offices raided on December 14. On March 19, 2003, the U.S. invaded Iraq. On March 21, 2003, an estimated 10,000 protesters took to the streets of Chicago, shutting down Lake Shore Drive. U.S. troops arrived in Baghdad April 9, 2003.
On April 13, 2003, 764 undergraduate students at Loyola University Chicago completed a survey that asked them to respond to the statements, “War is wrong,” and, “Discrimination based on religion is wrong.” The survey included a total of twenty statements on contemporary issues faced in religion and in society. The researchers also conducted focus groups with staff from the Department of University Ministry and with undergraduate students to better understand the survey results.
Loyola University Chicago is a Jesuit Catholic university known for academic excellence and for a very diverse student population. For the 2002-2003 school year, student demographics included: 58% Catholic, 14% Protestant, 4% Jewish, 3% Muslim, 3% Eastern Orthodox Christian, and 1% Hindu.1 Loyola’s religious diversity is visible on campus; there is a very active Hillel office, an operating mosque, a Hindu prayer room, and meetings and religious services from a variety of Christian traditions on campus. Starting with September 11th and going through the Iraq War, the Department of University Ministry was involved in planning several prayer services on campus, which reflected the university’s diverse student population. There were also a number of peace activities on campus in which Ministry was involved.
While this study looks at attitudes of students from all religious affiliations (including those who were not religious), particular attention is given to Catholic perspectives, given the student population and institutional identity of the university. It is very important to note that any relationship between students’ responses and the events since September 11th cannot be determined by this study. There was no before-and-after surveying of students on these issues. Even if there had been, many other factors would have had a high potential to affect responses. Focus group participants were asked to speculate if the events had a relationship with responses. Again, this was speculation on the part of those participants and cannot be statistically demonstrated in any way.