To the editor:
Thank you for the editorial by Anurag Muthyam and thanks to him for taking the time to write. This free public discourse on such a personal topic is the American dream at its finest. Unless we hear the perspectives of others whether they are complimentary or critical, we can spend our time and energy (our very lives) never achieving full value because we are missing opportunities to consider what we might not be doing well or best.
I bring my perspective to the free market of ideas with the hope of encouragement to Mr. Muthyam.
Many organizations in the Manhattan community focus on hosting the international students among us. For example, Helping International Students (HIS), which is made up of many partner organizations, has welcomed international students for over 30 years. I have never heard of any incident where a student was manipulated or pressured or lured into participating in religious activity. I have never heard such a strategy discussed.
Our experience is that students are welcomed when they first arrive. They are asked how they can be helped and they respond. They indicate if they have clothing, housing furniture, transportation or other common needs. They also indicate whether they have any interest in spiritual matters. They freely memorialize their needs or wishes in writing unassisted, and we do the best we can to address and meet those requests. We cannot even begin to keep up with such requests.
In addition to new students, others seek us out. I am reminded of two post-doc scientific scholars who came to us saying, “We do not know what the truth might be in regards to origins, but we have heard of a Creator God. We know what is has been designed. Can you tell us about the Creator God?” Unsolicited. This is the normal reality. This directly addresses their learning experience and education.
To hear that someone has felt pressured is new to me. What I hear is, “I am so thankful to have a ‘family’ here so far away from home.” And yes, it does, according to the students, help them academically. They report that the times together are peaceful diversions from the academic grind. They go back to their studies refreshed and rested, ready to resume their tasks.