“‘Sawubona’ is a traditional isi-Zulu greeting that means, ‘I see you’. That’s the greeting: ‘I see you. Sawubona,’” said Jon Leiseth, Concordia’s Minister of Faith and Spirituality in Action, during Chapel on Monday morning, Feb. 6. That Chapel service kicked off Concordia’s annual celebration of World Interfaith Harmony Week.
The World Interfaith Harmony Week was celebrated at Concordia College from Feb. 5 to Feb. 11; the first full week in February.
“It’s always a week I look forward to,” said Pastor Elly Mchan. “This is the fifth year that we’re marking it here at Concordia.”
The week was commemorated in numerous ways by a variety of groups on campus. During Chapel, Concordia’s Better Together and Campus Ministry welcomed a religiously and spiritually diverse set of speakers, ranging from students, staff, faculty, and citizens of Fargo-Moorhead; namely, Jamie Holding
Eagle, Amena Chaudhry, and Bonnie Klein.
Renata Molinari one student speaker who shared a story of unexpected love and inclusion that occurred in her home country of Brazil.
“It’s not just enough for someone to see you; you have to move beyond that and get to know the other person. We see people every day, but do we know them?” Molinari said at the end of her speech at Monday morning’s Chapel service. Molinari also spoke later that night at The Remedy, an on-campus Christian praise and worship group that is held on Monday nights at 9 p.m. in the North Gym of Memorial Auditorium, which also observed World Interfaith Harmony Week.
“[World Interfaith Harmony Week] is supposed to bring a level of comfort that will allow people to feel that they can share their faith and their stories,” Molinari said later in the week. “To share stories and perspectives helps us to see one another as neighbors, as fellow human beings.”
World Interfaith Harmony Week is celebrated worldwide. It was first celebrated by the United Nations in 2011 as a week set apart to recognize the increasing need for dialogue among different faiths and religions, promoting mutual understanding and cooperation among all people groups. It is a week dedicated to reaffirming the fact that mutual understanding and inter-religious dialogue are an imperative part of achieving world peace and understanding, regardless of personal beliefs.
However, there are those that feel that 2017 marks a year that the values portrayed through World Interfaith Harmony Week are more desperately needed than ever before.
In light of recent events, Pastor McHan stated that she felt that this year’s celebration of World Interfaith Harmony Week held a heightened sense of seriousness.
“There’s a different sense of poignancy about it this year. We didn’t schedule World Interfaith Harmony to be this week, in the midst the Executive Order,” McHan said, referring to the Executive Order that was signed by the President of the United States on January 27, 2017, barring the citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the US for a period of 90 days. It has been referred to by many circles as a “Muslim ban.”
“Whatever you want to call it, it is an executive order that brings religious background into whether or not people are welcome here,” McHan said. “Concordia College is a college that was founded by immigrants; it’s a college that was founded by people who came here for the sake of their children, for the sake of religious freedom, and who founded this school so that their children might have opportunities they had not had — that their children might not just learn about the world around them, but about the whole world. That is deep in the DNA of this place. And so, this week, in the midst of the context that surrounds it, suddenly ends up being quite different. I hope that this is another drop in the bucket of conversation on campus, for us to think about how do we do life together.”
“Sometimes it’s hard to see one another,” Leiseth said during Monday morning’s Chapel service. “Sometimes we become overwhelmed, distracted, or consumed by fear, anger, conflict, anxiety. The list goes on and on — these can certainly cloud our vision. Along with ‘sawubona’, there’s an additional greeting in isiZulu: ‘Sanibonani’, which means, ‘we see you.’”
“And so, with our sending, follow me,” Leiseth said at the conclusion of Monday’s chapel service, urging the group within the Centrum to follow him out into the Atrium, pointing out the sign that hung high throughout the week above the space, which read: “Sanibonani — We See You,” as a reminder of Concordia’s week-long celebration of, and year-long dedication to, World Interfaith Harmony Week.