Finding Common Ground for the Hospitality of All

Finding Common Ground for the Hospitality of All

Finding common ground offers the potential for hope, calm and peace for the world at large. When it happens, it's often the result of turning an unknown or something different into an opportunity to expand our learning and deepen our understanding of others. 

On the last day of January 2019, the University of San Diego’s 26th All Faith Service in Shiley Theatre brought multiple faith traditions to the stage — Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, Native American Indian, Hinduism and Christian — to share in the theme, “Hospitality: An Invitation to Healing and Wholeness.”

“With deep roots in the Catholic tradition, the virtue of hospitality invites us to create spaces where people, ideas and ways of being that are unfamiliar to us are welcomed, embraced and celebrated,” were words described by USD’s University Ministry in the event program. “By creating these spaces of authentic welcome, we’re able to glimpse what is required to reconcile the many divisions that keep us separated from living in solidarity and peace.”

Indeed, the program offered an educational discovery opportunity, through prayer, story, poetry, song, chant and dance. The event also had the lively addition of the award-winning USD Mariachi Ensemble at the beginning and closing of the service. Following each tradition’s reflection connected to the service’s theme, USD students — Michelle Zaichik ’19 (Jewish Student Union), Sapphire Booker-Samuel ’21 (Buddhist), Nadine Achkar ’21 and Nadia Al-Faraje ’22 (Muslim), PJ Murphy ’20 (American Indigenous Student Organization), Vijayraj Patel ’19 (International Student Organization, Hinduism) and USD student-athlete, women’s soccer player Amber Michel ‘19 (Christian) — each read a short prayer. Founders Chapel Choir Cantors Alexander Green ‘21 and Erin Kendrick ’19 then led the audience in a short hymn, singing: “In the way we welcome one another, may we find healing, wholeness and joy!”

Glenda Jaffe, director of Hillel at USD, spoke at the podium on the Jewish practice, offering words associated with the festival of Sukkot, an event in which Jews construct and move into temporary huts as a way of remembering the huts Israelites lived in during their 40 years in the desert after the exodus from Egypt. The Sukkot’s connection to hospitality is that Jews welcome family, friends and the community into the sukkah. This action invites all who enter to cultivate gratitude for all that they have and heighten a connection to our deepest self and commit to praying for the well-being of all people.

Ani Dolma and Ani Tanzin represented the Nuns of the Drikung Kyobpa Choling Tibetan Meditation Center. The two performed a chant, the Medicine Buddha Ritual, which offers healing energy for oneself and others and helps to overcome the root causes of illness and suffering. Buddha’s fondness for hospitality is evident and should be shown to all people, regardless of caste, religious affiliation or status.

Associate Professor of Theology and Religious Studies Bahar Davary, PhD, read selections from the late Sohrah Sepehri, one of Iran’s most famous contemporary poets and a minimalist landscape artist. His work was deeply spiritual and speaks of deep human connectedness with the divine on one hand and the rest of creation on the other.

Davary, who has been the Muslim All Faith Service presenter two previous times, enjoyed the opportunity to bring Sepehri’s works to light for the audience and to share a message of “looking forward to brighter days ahead.”

A few selections Davary shared were: “I have never seen two poplars to be enemies/I have never seen a willow selling its shade to the ground/The elm lets its branch to the crow for free.”

“I shall take away all curses off the lips/I shall tear down all walls/I shall declare to the highway men, and to the stickup men/”A caravan is coming, … its load smiles”/I shall tie a knot: our eyes with the sun/I shall reconcile, our hearts with love/I shall walk, I shall light, I shall love.”

Gordon Lee Johnson, a Cahuilla Cupeño who lives on the Pala Indians Reservation, is an accomplished creative writer, author, and a former newspaper columnist and feature writer in Riverside and editor in Temecula. He did an excerpt reading from his latest book, Bird Songs Don’t Lie, which includes columns, essays and short stories describing the struggles and occasional victories of Southern California natives.

The Hindu representation came courtesy of Sri Rudraprasad Swain and Laboni Patnaik performing mokska, a dance piece that’s traditionally the last item in an Odissi performance. Mokska, in Sanskrit, means liberation, which includes freedom from self-centeredness and a clear vision of the oneness of all beings.

Assistant Professor of Theology and Religious Studies, Victor Carmona, PhD, attending his first All Faith Service as a relatively new faculty member, presented the Christian reflection.

While calling his first All Faith Service, “humbling and joyful,” Carmona’s focus during his talk was sharing examples of hospitality — that it’s hard, yet hopeful; that it’s a pursuit of holiness; and that it is the beginning.

He spoke about being a volunteer interpreter for the Casa Cornelia Law Center. When a lawyer speaks to a client, ‘I listen to difficult conversations and decisions that call for the wisdom of mind and heart — of knowing hearts,” he said.

“I remember my first case. A young man from Central America was in detention as his asylum application process goes through the system. He and his lawyers were preparing for immigration court. This young man had been physically abused and assaulted by police officers for being gay. I remember listening to his words which then became mine. ‘I was abused.’”

Through this experience, “I see hospitality in amazing lawyers who do their best to practice law while speaking to hope. I see hospitality in the clients who are worried about their loved ones who stayed behind and even about the lawyers and interpreter who are taking in — who are drinking in — their horrible experiences,” Carmona said.

In all, the All Faith Service was an open invitation to the entire USD campus to, as first-time sstudent attendee and performer Alexander Green stated, “it was a great event because it did what it should do — bring everyone together.”

— Ryan T. Blystone

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