Lights on the River Meuse

Are you a student and religious and would you like to join a religion-based student association in Maastricht? Then there are a few associations you can join. Below, we introduce two of them: Lux ad Mosam, the Christian student association, and Muslim Student Association Nour.

Board members of Lux ad Mosam Mirthe Visscher and Laura Bouw, Medicine and Health Sciences students respectively, proudly present their association. Medicine student Rami Koudan, president of Nour, tells more about the plans of young and growing association MSA Nour.

Lux ad Mosam, close-knit and Christian

It’s a close-knit association, Lux ad Mosam. And the only Christian student association in Limburg, so members from Heerlen, Sittard, Venlo etc. also join. Lux ad Mosam unites all denominations within Christianity, from Protestant to Catholic. You don’t necessarily have to be Christian. You can also be a respecting member who does not fully subscribe to the Christian foundation, as long as you have an interest in and respect for the Christian faith. Praeses Mirthe Visscher finds this an enrichment: "It is particularly interesting to have so many different perspectives of the faith together. You learn so much from each other. You all bring with you the faith you received from home and it is precisely during your time as a student that you can very well develop how you experience faith. Then it is great to have so many perspectives together." Ab Actis Laura Bouw: "I am convinced that having in-depth conversations with other members very much ensures meaning and well-being. You are spiritually challenged and reflect on life and your faith. You talk about other things than just your education or parties. In our association, you can spar critically with each other. As a result, you deepen your faith and develop yourself. It’s great that you also have very nice parties with the same people and build a strong relationship. It is a combination of depth, friendship and relaxation."

One could imagine that the wide variety of denominations causes tensions. For instance, there are undoubtedly members who do not drink alcohol on principle or do not engage in activities on Sundays. Is that noticeable at Lux ad Mosam? Mirthe: "We often get this question and it surprises us. In fact, we don’t experience that many differences at all. In every group of people, everyone is a bit different. Of course, we have members who like to party a lot more than others and people who don’t drink alcohol. But precisely because we take an interest in each other and immerse ourselves in what drives the other, you find that those differences only enrich us. The differences that exist absolutely do not make it difficult to run the association together. We live together very harmoniously."

Own key

Lux ad Mosam is a relatively small association with 43 members. That is why there is a committee requirement. Every member is part of a committee that organises certain activities. "We organise a lot and to keep it all running you need people," says Mirthe. "Nobody finds it a problem to join a committee. In fact, it means there is always a lot of support for the activities because everyone experiences what it means to organise something. That makes you enthusiastic and curious about what others are doing." The association has its own premises in Bogaardenstraat thanks to a very favourable rent from the Municipality of Maastricht, and they make intensive use of it. Laura: "Everyone has their own key to the building. We have a drinks room, library, kitchen, prayer room, committee meeting room and board room there. Standard every Tuesday is club night, but because everyone has their own key, members also often just go to the premises during the day to study together, chill out, have a committee meeting, do odd jobs, etc. On Sundays, we always have a social afternoon. Most members then go to a service in their own church and whoever finishes first gets ’vlaai’. We then enjoy this all together in the clubhouse after the service."

Substantive

What makes Lux ad Mosam different from other student associations? Mirthe: "Just like other associations, we are a club where you want to make your student life more enjoyable together with others. We do that with sociable things, but what sets us apart is that we also have a lot of substantive activities. We are a place to develop yourself. We do that with an open character and don’t strive to all become the same. Not one type of person you all have to be like to make you a homogeneous group. Instead, we are more focused on who are you? It is absolutely not the case that everyone just does their own thing and creates their own island. We always actively engage in conversation and continuously question each other. We are critical and therefore we learn from each other." Every Tuesday is club night. Once every fortnight it is a Circle, the following week it is Mensa. What does that entail? Laura: "You join the same Circle for the whole academic year. That’s a small group, usually about five people, who have dinner together every week and then do a Bible study, have a discussion or focus on the practical, sceptical or philosophical sides of faith, for example. Afterwards, we always have drinks. The following week we have Mensa and then we all have dinner together in the society. After that, there is an activity organised by one of the committees. This can be a lecture or a debate, academic, theological, philosophical... Sometimes the activity is also relaxing, e.g. a celebration in which we all sing and reflect. We often do that e.g. in the crypt of the Onze Lievevrouwekerk. But we also really like to party, so that happens very regularly too."

Community

Many Lux ad Mosam members live in an association house together with other members. This enhances the sense of community even more, says Laura: "You come to live all by yourself in a strange city and you need a safety net. You really find that with us. We offer a combination of friendship, depth and relaxation. During the lockdowns because of COVID, our commitment to each other became very visible. We had a good time despite all our limitations, hung out a lot with our housemates and found understanding with each other. We could talk about it among ourselves and that helped enormously. All our activities continued online. And since we couldn’t have weekly drinks, the senate came by to bring beers and chips. Our involvement helped against loneliness among our members during lockdowns."

Ties

Mirthe: "We find it important to maintain good mutual ties with other religious societies. For instance, we organised an evening with Muslim Student Association Nour on the role of prayer and fasting within the faith, both within Islam and Christianity. Religious students have more in common with each other than non-religious students. It’s nice to see that connection rather than the differences." Moreover, the association aims to be a real light on the Meuse River by volunteering and contributing to the community. For instance, they organise an annual Christmas buffet for the whole neighbourhood, carry out activities for Refugee Project Maastricht, cook weekly at the Salvation Army and help in the ’Ontmoetingswinkel’ there.

Welcome

At Lux ad Mosam, everyone is welcome, so you can just get in touch via or email if you want to get acquainted. What about international students? Laura: "They are very welcome. However, it is important to know that our activities are always in Dutch. Of course, there is always someone willing to briefly translate what is said, but if you have the ambition to learn Dutch, this is a great opportunity."

Young and growing: Muslim Student Association Nour

MSA Nour is young. The association was founded in 2019 to provide Muslim students with a community. The members aim to bridge the gap between Muslim and non-Muslim students and form a multicultural community where everyone is welcome, where members learn from each other and make friends for life. A warm and safe haven. Medicine student Rami Koudan, president of MSA Nour, aims for the association to be an open place for discussion, where respect, dignity and tolerance apply: "Our members expressed the wish for religious and personal development. We are now starting to facilitate that."

MSA Nour is an Islamic-based association, so it is obvious that in some ways they differ from regular student associations. Rami: "Our social activities fit within our religious and cultural norms. For instance, we will never organise anything where alcohol is served because our members are not comfortable with that." Are most members strictly religious or does that vary widely? "Personally, I am not a fan of the word ’strict’," says Rami. "Everyone professes their faith differently. Some follow the rules more, others do so less. That often has to do with upbringing. We respect everyone and even have members who are not Muslim. Anyone who feels at home in our association is welcome. Non-Muslims who join MSA Nour do so because they are interested in Islam and want to learn more about it."

Important role

Does MSA Nour fulfil a great need for an Islamic student association in Maastricht? Rami: "I personally do notice that, also when I talk to other members and friends. It’s mainly about the feeling of not being alone. For instance, throughout my high school years, I was the only Muslim in the class for years. That wasn’t a bad thing, because it was also fun at school. But even if you don’t necessarily feel like an outsider, in some situations it would be nice to have someone beside you who understands exactly what’s on your mind. This is especially true for international Muslim students. It’s already difficult as a first-time student to find your way in a new city, but it’s even harder to encounter other Muslims. That’s where MSA Nour can play an important role. By the way, this does not mean that our members only interact with like-minded people. On the contrary, they study with and are curious about people from all kinds of cultures and backgrounds. We currently have around 80 members and there is still a lot of growth potential."

Conviviality and depth

Currently, MSA Nour’s activities range from social to religious, but they want to focus more on educational gatherings and personal development. "This year during Ramadan, we organised an Iftar, the breaking of the fast at sunset, with over 150 participants. There are also smaller-scale meetings and we went to Brussels with the association. At the request of members, we will now organise workshops in areas such as building self-confidence, time management, or working on specific problems that many Muslim students face. Moreover, our members have indicated that they want to learn more about our religion, so we are going to offer that too. We will soon start meetings in which our members memorise or read the Quran together. The aim is for members to get to know each other better based on the religious aspect. We thus combine conviviality and togetherness with depth."

Collaboration

One of MSA Nour’s goals is to build bridges and discover life together with others. "We definitely do not want to form an island," says Rami, "but rather get to know the vision of others. For instance, some time ago we organised a nice activity with the Christian student association Lux ad Mosam in which it became visible how both our religions live their daily routines. We work together with the InnBetween which is affiliated Refugee Project Maastricht. We always try to do something for the community: where we can help, we do so."

Four years ago, MSA Nour (Arabic for ’enlightenment’) was founded to bring together and represent Muslim students in Maastricht. We saw feelings of homesickness and loneliness in many students when they came to live in Maastricht. Through our association, we were keen to create a warm and safe environment for students to make new friends, develop themselves and learn more about Islam. Another important goal was to build bridges between the different populations in Maastricht and dispelling misconceptions about our faith.

Rami: "The most important thing is that members feel safe and comfortable at MSA Nour and that their norms and values are respected. Friendships for life are formed here, because religion, culture and the same interests connect our members. About half of them are international and the other half is Dutch. All our activities and meetings are therefore in English. Unfortunately, we do not yet have a building or even room exclusively for our association, but we are working on that. It would be great if we had our own space where members could just walk in, study together, relax and have tea. As I said, everyone is welcome here. Follow us on to find out if an activity is going to take place. You can always join sometime to see if you indeed want to become a member. You will be welcomed with open arms."

Potluck Iftar of MSA Nour in 2022 with more than 150 visitors. Iftar is the meal consumed at sunset after fasting. The dinner is opened with the ’Adhan’, the call to prayer.