Archive for February, 2010

Dr. Eboo Patel Comes to Wooster!

February 18th, 2010

Wow.  I can’t even begin to tell you how excellent my day has been!  So today, I had to go to a seminar about Interfaith dialogue with my Judaism class.  The Religious Studies department at Wooster sponsors a Spring Academy of Religion every “spring” and today they brought in Dr. Eboo Patel, founder and executive director of the Interfaith Youth Core.

Dr. Patel opened his speech with a story about Martin Luther King Jr.  In 1950, when King was in seminary, he went to a lecture about Christian Love, and was surprised to find that when he got there, the lecturer was talking about a Hindu, Mahatma Ghandi!  Dr. Patel emphasized that King was able to take what he admired about Hinduism, and apply it to the strengthening of his own personal faith.  He goes on to say that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is probably one of the greatest interfaith leaders of the time, for he was also good friends with Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, and a Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh.  I think that you can see how much Dr. Patel admires MLK for admiring Ghandi.  I will admit, anyone who is inspired by Ghandi to the extent that MLK is and Dr. Patel seems to be is all right.  I too, have been inspired and influenced by Ghandi’s and MLK’s words.  Now I have also become inspired by Dr. Patel.

The key to interfaith dialogue, Patel says, is to lay out a frame work.  Ask yourself these two questions:  What do I admire about my own religion? and What do I admire about another religion?  I will admit, I am not really committed right now to any particular faith tradition, but I’ll give you some examples of things I  admire a lot of things about other faith traditions.  I greatly admire the Muslim emphasis on charity, I admire that in Judaism, study is considered an act of religious worship, and I admire Jesus’ emphasis on loving everybody, I love the Buddhist emphasis on finding peace within yourself.  We should be focused on what we admire about each other, not what is different, because the truth is, that some religions have fundamentally different beliefs.  For example, Christians believe that Jesus is the Savior of Mankind, Muslims and Jews don’t.  And that’s okay.  What people need to do is find out what part of their faith tradition encourages, even demands interfaith cooperation.  After you’ve found it, you need to make it a priority in your own faith, that’s interfaith cooperation, according to Dr. Patel.

I just found his talk so inspiring and uplifting.  I am the TA for the Peace Studies class here at Wooster, and since I’m not only an International Relations major, but also a Religious Studies major, Dr. Kille suggested I do my guest TA lecture on religion as a peace tool.  I began to realize that my April 2nd lecture date was approaching quickly, and I needed to figure out what I was going to say.  Yes, obviously religion has been used to justify lots of violence throughout history, it’s a true fact.  Dr. Patel’s talk gave me some of the tools I need to show how religion can be used in a positive way to create peace.  I don’t think anyone can deny that what he has done, what he is doing now, is an excellent example of how one can use religion as a way to generate peace.

If you want to read more about Dr. Eboo Patel, his autobiography is called Acts of Faith:  The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation.  He has also written, with Adam Davis, Hearing the Call Across Traditions:  Readings on Faith and Service. I highly encourage you to check them out!!  Also, the Wooster radio station WOO91 is supposed to have a stream of his talk, but I don’t think it’s up yet.  When it is, I’ll post a link, cause it’s just that good.

So, I’m going to ask you to do something for me.  I want to ask yourself four questions:  (1) What is my personal story of interfaith cooperation? (2) What is an historical example of interfaith cooperation? (3) What do I admire about my faith and what part of my faith compels me to engage in interfaith cooperation? and (4) What do I admire about another faith?  Just ask yourself these questions.  I hope you’ll find them inspiring.  I hope this encourages you to think about what you can do to encourage interfaith, intercultural, interracial, inter-whatever in your community.

My First Blog Post EVER!!

February 17th, 2010

Well, here it is, my first blog post ever.  My father will be so proud of me 🙂  I must say that I’m actually really excited about this.  I had originally planned to start this blog a little bit later in the summer, when I am closer to leaving for Morocco, but I guess this is as good a time as any to begin.

Um, so yeah, I guess I don’t really know what to write about now.  I’m going to a Tango lesson later this evening, which I’m super excited about!!  I love to dance, I spent a large chunk of my childhood in leotards and ballet slippers.  Sadly, due to some unfortunate back problems, I can’t dance (ballet) anymore, but in a way it has been a good thing, I have been able to try other forms of dance, like Swing, Salsa, and tonight, Tango.

Today, I also almost forgot to feed my fish.  I have two guppies.  Their names are Inigo Montoya (named after the Princess Bride character), and Pope John Paul II.  They are small and see-through.  I’m serious, you can really see through them.  When I look at them through the top of the fish bowl I can see their brains through their skulls.  Guppy brains look like little black dots.  Actually though, they tend to change color depending on how you look at them, sometimes then look green, but other times they are more silvery-blue.  Did I mention they live in a giant brandy snifter?  You see, over the summer my mom and I were at The Christmas Tree Shop, and we were looking at over-sized alcoholic beverage cups.  We think they were supposed to be candle holders or something like that.  Anyway, I was looking at the snifter when my mom leans over and says “Kristen, wouldn’t that make a cool fish bowl?”  It does indeed mother, thank you for putting that fantastic idea into my head!  Okay, I think I would like to switch topics now.  That was a lot of information to take in all at once about my fish, who really most of the time are a lot less interesting.

So, tonight will be the first night this semester that I don’t have to do any homework!!!!  For various reasons, my both my professors decided to give us the night off.  That doesn’t mean I get to hang around and watch TV all night.  I actually have plenty of work to keep me busy.  I have a budget proposal to write tonight.  I am the treasurer of the International Student Association (ISA), one of the many student groups on campus, and it’s that time of year again where we need to submit a formal proposal asking for money so next years executive board can fund many wonderful projects.

Speaking of wonderful projects, the ISA, in collaboration with Wooster Volunteer Network (WVN), and Circle K International (CKI) is sponsoring a spring break service trip to West Virginia!  I’ve been planning the trip all year, with some help from a fellow ISA board member and the vice president of CKI.  We are taking 24 students (international and domestic) on the trip!  However, time is ticking and there’s still a lot of details to figure out.  I just went to the student wellness center today to reserve some first aid kits for the trip.  I also have to finish collecting deposits, paperwork, etc from everybody, which is actually a lot more exhausting than it sounds.

What else is going on in my life?  OH YEAH!  Me, my roommate, and some other friends are going to see Mary Queen of Scots Got Her Head Chopped Off (MQS) on Friday.  I believe opening night is tonight actually!  I work in the Theater scene shop, which means that I help build the set, hang lights, paint scenery, etc for all the shows at Wooster.  Actually, I mostly work in electrics, which means I get to hang the lights, fix it so the audience can actually see the actors on stage.  Anyway, for MQS the audience is sitting in the round, which means that they are sitting onstage with the actors performing in the middle, kind of like a Colosseum.  So for this show we’ve painted a giant map of Great Britain on the floor.  Let me tell you, it looks really really really cool!!  So all of you who are in Wooster, I suggest you get a ticket and go see this show!

Well, I guess this will be the end of my first blog post.  Sorry it was so, er, random.  I promise to try very hard to write at least once a week.  I “keep” a diary too, only my last entry is from 2006…oops.  So bear with me while I try to get into this habit.