Victims of religious discrimination honored in Columbia

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COLUMBIA - People gathered in silence Monday to honor those who have suffered from religious discrimination.

The vigil, conceptualized by University of Missouri student Chantelle Moghadam, was intended to bring light to harmful results of exclusionary religious practices.

"It can lead to discrimination in the form of being thrown out of houses, basically being shunned by their families, and it ranges from person to person," said Moghadam.

In addition to going to school for International Studies and French, Moghadam is the vice president of MU's Skeptics, Atheists, Secular Humanists and Agnostics group (SASHA). The event was put on by MU's Chancellor's Diversity Initiative, but Moghadam said several members of her group can identify with its aim.

"A lot of our members and a lot of members from other religious groups have had their own personal experiences," said Moghadam. "Those of which who are not raised in a non-religious family, which is the vast majority of us, have to come out to our family and friends at some point, especially for people who live in religious areas like Missouri. It can be very difficult."

Mark Nicolais said he attended the vigil to represent his Catholic beliefs and share his experiences with others.

"It's important that groups come out get together and remember our history," said Nicolais. "Where we've come from, what we've struggled with as faith traditions and individuals, so we can work together for a better future."

On Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. in Memorial Union, MU's Chancellor's Diversity Initiative will be hosting a panel discussion. The topic of the conversation is "Why does our religion put us at odds?"