A Muslim graduate of the country’s top Catholic university shared her experience during her five-year stay there.
Jomana Lomangco, who finished cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in accountancy, said that she never felt discriminated against while studying as a Muslim at the University of Santo Tomas.
“Never have I felt discriminated in the four walls of the university. Never have I felt less just because I’m a Muslim. Never did they leave me out just because of my faith,” she said in her Facebook post.
Lomangco admitted that her decision to study in a Catholic school was questioned by others who initially thought it might “alter” her faith and turn her into a Christian.
But she persevered and finished her studies with flying colors, realizing along the way that “to be of a certain faith, may it be a Christianity or Islam, is to be human.”
“To be of a certain faith, may it be Christianity or Islam, is to be human. And to be human is to respect and accept each other in spite of the differences in our beliefs,” Lomangco wrote.
The Muslim alum shared that studying in a Catholic institution taught her to look at people’s similarities instead of their differences, particularly when it comes to faith.
“As a Muslim who took up a few Theology courses, I’ve learned to look at our similarities rather than our differences. And I think that’s exactly what this world needs,” she continued.
Her Facebook post has earned thousands of likes and shares from the online community that found it “inspiring.”
“Well done… Congratulations! Thank you for being an instrument in bridging the gap between these faiths — surely what this world needs to make it a better place,” a Facebook user wrote.
“True. Look at the common ground, not the differences. UST has taught us to live the faith. We may not have the same faith, but love is universal. Congratulations,” another user commented.
Prominent Catholic university
The University of Santo Tomas is recognized as a top Catholic school, apart from it being the oldest higher educational institution in Asia.
It is the only university in the Philippines that was given the title “Pontifical” which means it was established or directly approved by the Holy See or the pope.
“Given the fact that Pontifical Universities are under the direct authority of the Holy See, high moral standards and discipline are expected of students, and the teachings are also equivalent to the apostolic constitution of the Catholic Church,” the Vatican noted in its website.
Being a pontifical university, UST observes Catholic rites, celebrations and events that are relevant to the faith.
It also receives the pope, the highest authority of the Catholic Church, whenever he visits the country. Pope Francis held an audience with the youth in UST’s grounds in January 2015.
Despite this, the school does not have any specific guidelines on admitting students and faculty members with different creed. In fact, it also encourages students from the Middle East, which has a predominantly Muslim population, to apply.
Students also attend Theology classes since it is part of the school’s core curriculum or common courses undergraduate students must take, regardless of their respective programs.
Other than that, they are not expected to participate in Catholic services out of respect to their faith, although they are not prohibited from attending it as well.