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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

MLK Scholars discuss faith and Brandeis

Published: March 26, 2010
Section: News

InterFaith: Members of the Brandeis Gospel Choir Voices of Soul perform Wednesday at the final event for the MLK and Friends club’s weeklong celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr.<br /><i>PHOTO BY Nafiz “Fizz” R. Ahmed/The Hoot</i>The MLK and Friends club concluded a weeklong celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. with a Buddhist meditation that was attended by more than 40 Brandeis students.

At the meditation, students clapped and sang along to Brandeis’ gospel choir, ate traditional Jewish stew, sang a Hindu folk song and watched a video depicting average American Muslims. The students embraced religious pluralism through presentations from representatives of various religions on campus.

The event featured representatives from the Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, Hindu and Muslim student communities on campus, and each group was given ten minutes to showcase their beliefs and faith. During the introduction, a video showed interviews with students who described what faith meant to them, with answers ranging from being a good person and respectful of others to believing in something 100 percent even with no explanation.

Matthew Zunitch ’13 and Miriam Von Guggenberg ’10 represented Sangha, one of the Buddhist groups on campus. They lead the group in a compassion meditation, which Zunitch explained was designed to “cultivate feelings of understanding,” and to create a desire to do kindness to others.

A reading from the Book of John depicting God’s love and Jesus’ sacrifice represented Christianity, followed by Voices of Praise, Brandeis’ gospel choir. The group sang “In the Sanctuary,” a song by Kurt Carr that praises God’s love and glory.

Two representatives of the Brandeis Jewish community gave a brief historical background of Judaism, including the differences between various movements of Judaism. They also brought cholent, a Jewish stew traditionally served on the Sabbath.

Wajida Syed ’12 and Neda Eid ’11 taught the group about the basic principles of Islam, and mentioned that according to traditional law, everyone is initially equal in the sight of Allah, or God, but that piety and worship can create distinctions. They also showed a video in which Muslims answered the question, “What does Islam mean to you?” Their answers, which varied greatly, emphasized that the American and world stigma towards Islam is misdirected.

Hindu students read a Hindu prayer for coexistence. They also sang a song, “Shuddha Brahma,” which told the story of Rama, a Hindu deity.

After the presentations, students were invited to engage in discussions about their own religious experiences, before and after coming to Brandeis.

The event, along with others that recognized several major activist actions on campus, was organized by MLK and Friends to celebrate the national MLK week.

MLK and Friends is a club that was started in 2007 by recipients of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Scholarship. The club does community-building events focused on the ideals of Martin Luther King, Jr., including social justice, community service, education and equality, and is similar to long-term community service, said member Alie Tawah ’11.

“It’s something we do to show our appreciation for King and his ideology, everything we do encompasses a part of that,” Desiree Murphy ’10 said.

The t-shirts that members of MLK and Friends wore to promote the club were modeled after Got Milk ads, with “Got MLK?” on the front. On the back, the shirts read “Studies show that when MLK scholars do projects that allow diverse interest groups to work together, students feel a better sense of campus unity. So join the listserve, get involved, and think MLK. Now that’s a dream come true, student body by MLK.”