Valparaiso U’s speaker remembers King’s message of nonviolence
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent January 21, 2013 12:55PM
Members of the Valparaiso University Chamber Concert Band sing "Life Every Voice and Sing" as a prelude to the school's MLK Celebration convocation at the Chapel of the Resurrection Monday Jan. 21, 2013. | Andy Lavalley~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 22, 2013 9:16AM
VALPARAISO — The fact that President Barack Obama took the oath for his second term in office on the day celebrating the life of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. was not lost on those gathered in Valparaiso University’s Chapel of the Resurrection Monday.
Students and community members filled the chapel for the university’s 24th annual commemoration of King’s life and work, which included a convocation featuring Eboo Patel, founder and president of the Interfaith Youth Core, as well as a wide array of campus activities spanning more than a week.
“Today, a man who wouldn’t have been able to drink water at the same water fountain as most of the people in this room half a century ago takes the oath on a Bible carried by Martin Luther King,” said Patel, a member of the president’s inaugural Advisory Council on Faith-Based Neighborhood Partnerships.
King, Patel said, could have used his Baptist faith as a bubble of isolation and decided he wanted nothing to do with Mahatma Gandhi’s Hinduism; instead, King embraced Gandhi and his faith’s message of nonviolence.
“What inspires me about Martin Luther King Jr. is not only that he was a great intellectual and the greatest leader of the 20th century, but Martin Luther King was a great interfaith leader,” Patel said, adding King’s faith was not a bubble, but a bridge to cooperation.
King turned to readings on Christianity and Hinduism and looked for a bridge between the two, Patel said, using Jesus Christ as the inspiration for his struggle but using the methods of Gandhi.
‘The bridge builder looks for the connection. How do I build the two together?” Patel said.
When President Obama was in his 20s, he worked as an interfaith leader on Chicago’s south side. He knew what it meant to bring people together who orient around religion differently, Patel said.
King and the president are connected by a bridge of American history, of African American history, of interfaith history, Patel said, adding both were in their 20s – the same age as the students in the chapel – when they began their journeys.
He challenged the students to determine what interfaith bridges they will build and reminded them that people are better together than they are apart.
Patel also noted the image of a world house for all from King’s 1967 book, “Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?”
“The world house needs an architect,” Patel said, “you, me, we have to be those architects.”