It took only the first powerful, rhythmic West African drumbeat of “Kakilambé” for the University of San Diego audience in Shiley Theatre to know that a collective sense of discovery and inspiration had arrived.
The 20th annual All Faith Service, a signature USD event held at the start of the spring semester, brought leaders of diverse faith communities, faculty, staff, students and alumni together on Thursday. “Care of Creation,” the semester-long theme of USD’s Council for the Advancement of Catholic Social Thought, was the focal point, but it was done through a diverse lens.
“We come together with other faith communities … and respect the diversity of each tradition as it strengthens and enriches us,” said Monsignor Daniel J. Dillabough in his welcoming remarks.
Muslim, American Indian, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist and Hindu representatives expressed their faith, respectively, through prayer, dance and storytelling. The latter was highlighted by a Buddhist teaching by Reverend Yushi Mukojima, a resident minister of the Buddhist Temple of San Diego, and his accompanying “panda” puppet discussing “The Web of Life” with an on-stage audience of SOLES’ Manchester Family Child Development Center children.
Zaki Zanaid, a volunteer at the Islamic Center of San Diego for 20 years, delivered the Muslim Call to Prayer and was joined by USD student Salman Hamrani ’14. Stanley Rodriguez, a Kumeyaay and member of the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel, represented the American Indian expression of faith. Alejandro Meter, a USD associate professor of Spanish and director of its Latin American Studies program, read an excerpt from Alberto Gerchunoff’s The Jewish Gauchos of the Pampas, which spotlighted 19th century Jewish immigration into Argentina.
Reverend Peter H. Rood, the rector for Holy Nativity Episcopal Church in Los Angeles, spoke encouragingly about a movement among more people who embrace the seriousness of environmental issues, are being proactive in their lives and helping others too.
The graceful and exquisite Hindu dance by sisters Shalini and Laboni Patnaik was performed while the song “Mangalam” by the late, legendary sitar musician Ravi Shankar played. The Patnaiks said Shankar, an Escondido resident who died at the age of 92 in December 2012, was a close family friend. Laboni said she and her sister had performed Thursday’s routine at Shankar’s 90th birthday celebration.
“It’s such an honor for us to represent our culture here,” said Laboni, who added that she and Shalini have performed in past USD All Faith Service events at the invitation of Lance Nelson, a veteran USD Theology and Religious Studies professor. “The concept of this event is absolutely gorgeous. It is so beautiful to see this diversity.”
Each presentation of faith, which were followed by a prayer of intercession given by a USD student — Mimi Akel ’14 (Muslim), Riley Avila ’16 (American Indian), Caroline Berger ’13 (Christian), Jimmy (Chirayu) Nintanavongsa ’14 (Buddhist), Fabrizio Ellis ’15 (Jewish) and Kunal Kahli ’13 (Hindu) — was unique, yet delivered a common call for the importance of all living beings, equality and devoted care for the earth.
“It’s really nice knowing that you can be comfortable with your own religion and have an opportunity to see this,” said Corey Salas, a junior psychology major and a member of the Founders Chapel choir that performed during the event. “I think it’s important, as a Catholic university, that the school supports religious diversity and that it’s really put out there.”
A photo slideshow showcased USD students who have participated in programs such as Outdoor Adventures, University Ministry, Center for Community Service-Learning and the Office of Sustainability’s Be Blue, Go Green Team that enhance their educational, environmental and community awareness.
“We stand at a critical moment in Earth’s history, a time when humanity must choose its future. Because as our world becomes increasingly interdependent and fragile, the future holds great peril and yet great promise. To move forward we recognize that in the midst of magnificent diversity of cultures and life forms we are one human family and one Earth community with a common destiny,” she said. “We join together to bring forth a sustainable global society founded on respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice and a culture of peace. Towards this end we, the people of Earth, declare our responsibility to one another and to future generations.”
Shortly after Cruz completed her remarks and the Founders Chapel choir sang its final song, L.A.-based drummers Marcus Brown and Christian DeLarkin, along with members of USD’s percussion ensemble resumed playing “Kakilambé” to a more unified and enlightened audience.
— Ryan T. Blystone
Photos by Chris Keeney