By Becca Robb | Echo
Students met Monday to revive the Middle Eastern Collegiate Association (MECA), a cabinet striving to engage with Middle Eastern culture, politics and religion.
MECA hopes to host local Muslims at panel discussions and give students a chance to pose questions. About a dozen cabinet members gathered upstairs in the Campus Center. They discussed organizing a campus fundraising event and cooking Middle-Eastern food to support mission organizations working with Middle-Easterners. Other potential events include hosting documentary screenings, prayer meetings and campus debates.
MECA Co-Leaders and seniors Yuna Seo and Savanna Sweeting said MECA plans to share new information and perspectives about the Middle East with the campus.
"Our goal is to not necessarily to change people's minds, but to (make people) think: 'maybe my beliefs and stereotypes are not right,'" Seo said.
By telling real stories and meeting real people, the Taylor community can find the opposite side of the stereotypes they're hearing, Sweeting said. Seo hopes people who have negative associations with the Middle East will soften to at least a neutral connotation.
MECA aims to refine how the Taylor community talks about Middle-Easterners and how they talk to Middle-Easterners.
"(Christians') core message should be Jesus, but instead it's democracy and free enterprise-Western ideas-not Jesus," Seo said. "We should not assume our culture is better than (theirs)."
Sweeting said she hopes to better understand the context of Middle-Eastern conflicts and crises. Kevin Diller, MECA faculty advisor, said conflict in the Middle East is not really new. What is new is how many Americans are experiencing more fear in general, especially about Muslim people.
Sophomore Abigail Roberts has personal experience in the Middle East, though she isn't a MECA cabinet member. She moved to the Middle East as a one-year-old and has since lived in Jordan and Syria for about 15 years. Roberts hopes that people's views of Middle-Easterners will change, despite current situations.
"God is working in the midst of all of this," Roberts said. "It's hard for us to focus on that when we're focusing on all the violence."
MECA is not a brand-new cabinet but a resurrection of a cabinet that's laid dormant since 2014. Previously, MECA hosted similar events to the ones planned for this year, including a panel with four Muslim women and a debate on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, according to former MECA President Samantha Davis (Sweeting '12).