Interviewee: Nuri Daya
Interviewer: Suzanne Degnats
Date of Interview: February 16, 2011
Format: WAV file
Length of Interview: 1 hour, 17 minutes
Length of Transcript: 18 pages
Biography: Nurjihan Daya (she prefers to be called Nuri) was born on September 11, 1944 in Dar es Salaam, in Tanzania. Her parents were of Indian origin, born in Tanzania. Nuri, like her parents, is a Shia Ismaili Muslim. She received her college degree in education, and has taught in various schools, religious, and training centers. She is married and has three children. In 1972 she moved to Zambia, and in 1984 moved to the United States, to Atlanta, Georgia, where she has resided ever since. She left teaching to work as an insurance underwriter, retiring after twenty three years. During her life, she has always sought out Ismaili communities wherever she has lived, and has been continually involved with her religion and her religious communities, particularly in the area of religious education. She currently lives with her husband in Tucker, GA.
Abstract: Nuri experienced a lot of sadness in her childhood. She alluded to the fact that there was dysfunctionality in her family, and this influenced her greatly. She was able to find comfort with teachers who took notice of her writing abilities and took a personal interest in her. From these encounters, Nuri decided to become a teacher so that she could give back to other children and she had been given. She has also found a lot of comfort in going to the Jamatkhana, the community center of her religion wherever she has lived, and made it a point to search out others of her own religion. She was exposed to people of many different faiths, and is very ecumenical in her views of other religions. Nuri has also been involved in the Landmark Forum, an international group that teaches about leadership and self-fulfillment. Additionally, she is involved with FAMA (Faith Alliance of Metro Atlanta), an interfaith group that seeks to develop a better understanding between people of different faiths. A pivotal moment in her life came in 2000, when she had heart surgery following a small heart attack. During and after the surgery, she was very well cared for by family, friends, co-workers, and her religious community. She attributes her recovery to this care and to God. She prayed hard before the surgery, asking God, “Just as this heart surgery is going to clean the impurities from my physical body, please clean up my heart in another way, a spiritual way to clean out all the much and dire that is inside me.” Nuri told her religious life story by emphasizing connections to people who influenced her, her internal struggles with her childhood, and the healing that comes from being cared for.
Interviewee: Dr. John Decker
Interviewer: Diana Wallace-Bernstein
Date of Interview: February 14, 2013
Format: WAV file, transcript
Length of Interview: 51 minutes
Length of Transcript: 21 pages
Dr. John Decker was born on July 13th, 1968 in Manteca, California. He identifies as Latino or Hispanic/Other. His family attended church services, first at a Catholic Church until Decker was seven and his family converted to Protestantism. He stopped going to church at age 16 when his parents divorced. He received his PhD from UC Santa Barbara and is currently married without children. Decker is a scholar of Medieval Catholicism and is an Assistant Professor of History of Art and Architecture at GSU.
Although Decker’s mother was less concerned with religion, Decker’s family was very religious due to his father’s religious exuberance and conflicted personality, and Grandmother who was a devout Spanish Catholic. He remembers attending Catholic Church services and being impressed with the space and light. At the age of six, his family converted to Protestantism which Decker describes as a “Rupture” rather than “Reformation.” During his teenage years, Decker began to notice inconsistencies and contractions in the actions and preaching of his religious community. At 14 Decker attended Christian summer camp to both please his father and have time away from his home life. The culmination of the summer camp going to the river and being baptized. Decker participated due to peer pressure and social cues, ultimately feeling that it was a fundamental betrayal of his self and identity. When his parents divorced at 16, Decker stopped going to church altogether and felt nothing but distain for religion. In college he described himself as agnostic, although upon later reflection he identified more as an atheist. As a scholar of Medieval Catholicism, he has a more objective relationship with religion although it has no personal resonance with him. In his courses he encourages charity and acceptance of different faiths as long as those religions do not impinge on the rights of others. Although he acknowledges that the American South has a strong Protestant bias, Decker is pleased with the religious diversity and tolerance at GSU, both within the Religious Studies Department and as seen through the physical manifestation of religion on campus in relation to traditional garb and insignias students wear.
Latino, Hispanic, Catholic, Protestant, Conversion, Christian Camp, Contradictions, Peer Pressure, Betrayal, Disdain, Agnostic, Atheist, Scholar, Medieval Catholicism, Objective, Acceptance, American South, Diversity, Tolerance