When it comes to understanding religion, Assistant Professor of Theology & Religious Studies Jon Paul Sydnor believes that sometimes you just need to see it for yourself.
For three weeks in January 2012, he traveled to Trinidad to study the island's rituals, beliefs and interreligious relations, with a specific focus on its Hindu culture. The trip was made possible through a fellowship by the
Marion and Jasper Whiting Foundation, which provides grants to university and college professors to study abroad and "improve and enhance the quality of their instruction." For a professor who encourages his students to look beyond
what is written in their textbooks and seeks to make religion "come alive" in his classroom, Dr. Sydnor saw great potential in the trip in terms of its impact on his teaching.
"It allowed me to engage students with my own experiences," he said. "It is a huge benefit to be able to do that."
The island of Trinidad offered an attractive dynamic for a professor interested in comparative theology, especially in regard to the Hindu religion. As a multi-religious nation, Trinidad is home to a number of different religious sects, the
largest being its Roman Catholic and Hindu communities. Dr. Sydnor gained accessto followers of the Kabir Panth, a Hindu religious Community, visited and worshiped in five different ashrams, their places of worship, conducted anthropological interviews and shot video throughout his travels.