Bahai News -- Ceremony to show religious diversity
Thursday, November 21, 2002

Four Northern Michigan University professors will represent their faith — Islamic, Baha’i, Buddhist and Jewish — at the annual community Thanksgiving ceremony Wednesday at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Marquette. From left are Mohey Mowafy, Helen Kahn, Tesshin Paul Lehmberg and Rodney Clarken. (Journal photo by J. Wainwright)

Ceremony to show religious diversity

Journal Staff Writer

MARQUETTE — Four Northern Michigan University professors say they are proof of the Upper Peninsula’s religious diversity.
The four professors will represent their faith — Baha’i, Buddhist Islamic and Jewish — at the annual Community Thanksgiving Ceremony Wednesday at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Marquette.
Dr. Rodney Clarken, who will represent the Baha’is, said including differing religions in the ceremony is important.
“We’ve been breaking down barriers such as racism and sexism. Religion is one of the unities we’ve yet to achieve, and yet to address,” Clarken said. “I think this has been a barrier to world peace, so, yes, this service is very significant.”
Other professors include Dr. Helen Kahn, who will speak about Judaism; Dr. Tesshin Paul Lehmberg, who will give a Buddhist reading; and Dr. Mohey Mowafy, representing the Islamic faith.
The Thanksgiving service has a 15-year history. This is Kahn’s first involvement. She said she volunteered after hearing about the service at her synagogue, Temple Beth Sholom.
Kahn said the ceremony will give people a chance to hear about other faiths, and will increase understanding and communication between different religions.
Kahn plans to read a prayer from a Jewish holiday, Sukkot.
“Sukkot is similar to the American idea of Thanksgiving,” Kahn said. “Sukkot means good harvest, or abundance. I will also offer a prayer for peace.”
Clarken, representing the Baha’i faith, has spoken at the Thanksgiving service before. He said this service is important because it addresses oneness and unity of humankind and religions.
Clarken said he will offer a Baha’i prayer for America. He said in Baha’i prophecies and scriptures, America has a special destiny to be a leader of peace in the world.
Clarken said Baha’i recognizes the divinity of all religions, and the Baha’i goal is peace and security to all humankind.
Mowafy has participated in the ceremony many times. He said he will select a verse from the Koran, the Islamic holy book, that addresses appreciation.
“If we cannot feel appreciative of what we have,” Mowafy said, “then we have no right to ask for anything.”
Mowafy said he will read the verse in Arabic, and then translate it to English.
He said he is very grateful for the chance to speak at the ceremony.
“With what’s happening in the world, any harmony is what we’re crying out for,” he said.
Lehmberg has not only participated in the Thanksgiving service previously, he has given the sermon in past years. He said the ceremony has become a tradition he and his family look forward to every year.
“I think the ceremony is a good idea for Marquette. It’s become tradition, and is usually heavily attended,” Lehmberg said. “It brings communities together.”
Lehmberg said he is unsure of exactly what he will speak about this year. He said in the past he has chosen pieces of Buddhist scripture or contemporary poetry with a Buddhist slant.
Lehmberg said many local Buddhists have been meeting at his house every day except Sunday for about 10 years. He said they recently bought a house for Buddhist followers to attend. Clarken said people of the Baha’i faith also meet in Baha’i homes.
Mowafy said there is no local Islamic place of worship. He said he personally does not seek congregation, but rather practices Islamic faith independently. Mowafy said Islam teaches that one does not need a building to pray. Kahn said she attends temple Beth Sholom in Ishpeming.

©Copyright 2002, The Mining Journal (MI, USA)

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