The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Google marketing executive Wael Ghonim, one of the key organizers behind Egypt's uprising, have much in common, said Eboo Patel in this year's Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Lecture, Feb. 21 in Sage Chapel.
"They dreamed their dream. They did their work. When the time came, they were ready," said Patel, founder and executive director of the Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) and one of the 10 young Muslim visionaries shaping Islam in America today, according to Islamica Magazine. He was also named by U.S. News & World Report as one of America's Best Leaders of 2009.
In his talk on the historical progress of multifaith cooperation and religious pluralism, Patel stressed the importance of community effort to reshape the world. Though more than 50 years apart, Ghonim's fight for liberation in Egypt was similar to King's crusade for African-Americans during the 1956 bus boycotts, Patel said. Both King and Ghonin's responses, he said, reflect their perspectives of universal toleration and forgiveness.
Despite King experiencing a burning house, death threats and a jail sentence around the time of the boycotts, King said, "'This is not the time for anger. This is not the time for revenge. This is the time for redemption. This is the time for reconciliation. This is the time to build the beloved community,'" Patel quoted.
Interfaith Youth Core forms partnership with CURW and Cornell Hillel
Cornell United Religious Work and Cornell Hillel are launching a partnership with the Interfaith Youth Core. Eboo Patel, IFYC director, will kick off the partnership at the inaugural meeting of a working group of Cornell students, faculty and staff, Feb. 22, which will guide the partnership. The goals of the partnership are to:
• Train a group of student interfaith ambassadors to lead sustainable interfaith action projects, and
• Develop programs that integrate interfaith action into existing student-life activities.
This initiative is made possible by Cornell Hillel and the Einhorn Family Charitable Trust.
When Ghonim, who was detained and held by Egyptian authorities for 12 days, was released during the protests in Egypt, he kissed the police officers. Like King, Ghonim was not bitter at the end of the struggle, but recognized the misunderstandings that occur among people, said Patel.
Patel also noted that King was open to learning from Mohandas Gandhi, who belonged to a different faith. He addressed that IFYC's focus is not to convert people to particular religions but to get religious and nonreligious people to cooperate.
"When I think of Martin Luther King Jr., I think not just of a civil rights hero," said Patel. "I think not just of a great African-American. I think not just of probably the greatest American in the 20th century. I think also and equally that he was an interfaith hero."
In his closing statements, Patel reflected on the past 20 years, noting such turning points as the fall of the Berlin Wall, the inauguration of Nelson Mandela in South Africa, the caucus wins by Barack Obama in Iowa and a now free Egypt, as hope for justice in this world. He said interfaith cooperation and shared values are the backbone for people's unity.
"The unifying principle of life is love," said Patel. And this principle applies regardless if one is Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, Christian, Jewish or non-religious, he said.
Dorothy Chan '12 is an intern writer for the Cornell Chronicle.