Religious groups remember MLK, Jr.

The Stanford student group Faiths Acting in Togetherness and Hope (FAITH), along with the Office for Religious Life, hosted the annual Multi-Faith Celebration on Sunday in honor of the work and life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The service, held in Memorial Church, acknowledged the importance of engaging religious diversity in the Stanford community, and included a Buddhist chant, a reading from the Quran, a biblical prayer and performances by Talisman and the Memorial Church Choir.

“I think that as Muslims we get few opportunities to share our faith with other people, and it is nice to have this ability to collaborate around the universal teachings of King,” said graduate student in civil and environmental engineering Teizeen Mohamedali.

The service included a speech by FAITH President Anand Venkatkrishnan ’10, who spoke about King’s sense of religious diversity and the heavy influence on his thought from leaders like Mahatma Gandhi.

Venkatkrishnan also discussed the perception of religious groups, which is often one of violence and incomprehensibility. He disagreed with the common religious group mentality of “only my group dominates; others suffocate.”

He saw religious identity as the extent to which one can sympathize with a sufferer separated by a border like religion. “There comes a time when silence is betrayal,” Venkatkrishnan said. “We, the relatively conscious, must insist on creating conscience for others.”

Later in the service, Rabbi Patricia Karlin-Neumann, the administrative dean for the Office of Religious Life, led the audience in reciting a piece of litany that centered on the idea that everyone is tied together in a “single garment of destiny.” The silk screen of leaves and blossoms that adorned the podium in the center of the stage was the physical representation of this destiny, a garment made just for the service.

Stanford a cappella group Talisman ended the service with a rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” the Black National Anthem of the United States.

“We engage constantly with this song – despite our race, we can all relate to the oppression in this country,” announced a Talisman member before their performance.

Attendee Jessica Galant ’10 hoped the different religious groups could come together by recognizing shared objectives. “The main purpose was to awaken people to the common goal of social justice that lies at the root of every religion, by remembering a great leader who really defined what it means to stand for what you believe in,” she said.

Venkatkrishnan said he was overwhelmed with the audience’s response. “I never expected that so many people would come – whether from the outside community or the student population,” he said. “Based on the response that I received from professors, religious leaders and students who came up to me after the event and at the talk-back, I consider the event a great success.

“I think there’s going to be a lot of new energy generated in many different communities around the topic of engaging religious diversity on campus,” he added.

About Joseph Levenson