“Hey it’s cold outside, but this stage is smokin!” speaker Eboo Patel jokingly said to a jam-packed RecPlex Tuesday night after the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company performed in honor of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement.
An acclaimed author, Huffington Post and USA TODAY blogger, CNN contributor and Advisory Council on Faith-Based Neighborhood Partnerships member, Patel grew up Muslim and founded the Interfaith Youth Core in 2002. The Chicago-based organization is devoted to building social brides in religious diversity.
“Our goal is to make interfaith cooperation a social norm in the course of a generation,” said Katie Bringman Baxter, director of campus engagements for the IFYC. “I believe this university has a combination of Catholic tradition with great people to make forms a vibrant interfaith community.”
Patel was introduced by former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See Miguel H. Diaz, and delivered a speech pertaining to King’s impact and goals of interfaith corporation. He began his speech by telling a story of how his father introduced the idea of interfaith corporation to him at an early age.
Patel said his father came to the United States from India to attend the University of Notre Dame in 1985. He began to become an avid fan of ND football, traveling to South Bend, and always stopping to admire the
“At 10 years old, I remember standing outside the Grotto and asking my father, ‘Aren’t we Muslim?’” Patel said. “My father said, ‘Don’t forget how the Quran describes God. Always
remember the relevances.’”
Patel said King was one of the best examples of a man who respected relevances of other religions and became a great
“The beating heart of King’s life was his faith,” said Patel. “That faith had wings.”
Patel began to describe King’s effect on the interfaith movement by reflecting on King’s adversity in the civil rights movement. Patel said for 380 days there was suffering and abuse that resulted in death threats and loss of jobs. However, King was resilient in continuing his effort to build the community, rather than seek revenge on his enemies.
Patel said a lot of people think religion is a poison and that different faiths are destined to fight. He said some believe religion is a boom of destruction and a barrier of division. According to Patel, society must adopt King’s philosophy to “make faith a bridge of cooperation,” rather than a bridge of division.
Patel proceeded to talk about interfaith leadership and two dimensions surrounding the concept. According to Patel, a good interfaith leader must appreciate knowledge of other traditions and adopt a theology of
“This was the stuff my dad was trying to teach me, see the beauty in other traditions,” Patel said. “The knowledge is to articulate and admire other traditions.”
Patel said UD is a university so much further in the practice of interfaith cooperation than other universities in the nation. He said it is in the nature of UD, having a diversity of religions and great people, which builds a theology of interzfaith cooperation.
Patel said while speaking about interfaith cooperation at DePaul University, he heard people say “We love other religions even though we are Christian.” He said the next step to build on a bridge of interfaith cooperation is to say, “We love other religions because we are Christian.”
“Faith is a bridge of cooperation,” Patel said. “We need to be builders of that bridge.”
Individuals in attendance of Patel’s talk also received an invitation to a follow-up session.
The university will hold a follow-up discussion on Patel’s speech for students, faculty and staff on Feb. 5 in Kennedy Union West Ballroom
from 7:30-8:30 p.m.
Sister Laura Leming, associate professor and chair of the department of sociology, anthropology and social work, said the follow-up session is a “town hall meeting to explore how Patel’s insights apply here at UD and how we can expand our interfaith understanding, dialogue and cooperation.”
The next speaker participating in UD’s 2012-2013 speaker series will be civil rights lawyer, author and associate professor of law at Ohio State University, Michelle Alexander. The event will take place on Feb. 12 at 7:30 p.m. in the Kennedy Union Ballroom.