From Where We Are

USC students on faith and religious festivities

With the upcoming religious holidays this weekend students reflection on their own religious upbringings.

With Ramadan, Passover, and Easter celebrations all taking place this weekend, many college students are reflecting on what their faith means to them.

A study conducted by the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA found that over the last 30 years, the number of students with no religious affiliation has tripled while their attendance at religious services simultaneously dropped by around 15%.

So why are students becoming less religious? Josh Flowers has the story.

This weekend will be particularly holy for those who practice any of the three Abrahamic faiths: Judaism, Islam, or Christianity. the celebrations of Passover, Ramadan and Easter will all take place this weekend. These springtime holidays only overlap around every 33 years.

Though each is observed differently, the three celebrations serve to bring together communities united by their beliefs. For those who may not practice religion often, these holidays offer an opportunity to reconnect and rediscover religious relationships... or not.

Jada Jo: I think I started questioning it in high school.

Jada Jo is a USC senior studying theater.

Jo: And then when I got here and there wasn’t a family influence that drove me to continue practicing it and I was able to really make those decisions for myself that’s when I made those decisions and realized it didn’t really align with what I believe.

Many students, like Jo, find that their relationship with practicing faith is different now that they’re on their own. That’s the case for communications major Ehi Osifo.

Ehi Osifo: When I was younger and I lived in Nigeria, I used to have to go every Wednesday and Sunday, and I felt like it was me being forced to be there rather than me wanting to be there. As soon as I had the option to not go to church, I decided to say no, nada, and I stopped going.

College is often depicted as the time in a young adult’s journey where they’re meant to explore all aspects of their lives... including religion. For some, this may mean not practicing religion at all. Others may lessen their practice. And some students discover that being away from home strengthens their faith.

Talha Barberousse is a senior studying musical theater.

Talha Barberousse: Me and my friends, we go to a church because we like the church and it’s very contemporary, so we just go together on Sundays.

Now they can... because churches have reopened after the COVID-19 pandemic which forced so many places of worship to close. That strongly affected the religious practices of many students like Business Administration major Sophia Malaret.

Sophia Malaret: Me and a lot of my friends stopped attending mass when the pandemic started and churches shut down.

For others, COVID, mortality, all the things we were thinking about during those years made them want to worship more.

Public policy major Talia Wansikehian says her faith deepened... at least for a while.

Wansikehian: I feel like during the pandemic it was more because you like wanted to keep faith or like a positive mindset, but then after with school, it like went down.

With the pandemic largely in the rearview mirror for many folks, it will be interesting to see how attendance at religious observances this weekend is affected.

As the weekend approaches and millions of people around the world prepare to celebrate by gathering, fasting, praying and more, many students at USC will join in on the festivities while others will continue exploring what religion means to them.

For Annenberg Media, I’m Josh Flowers.