On Tuesday, the Temple Baha’i Student Association, Vedic Heritage, the Cardinal Newman Student Association and Masonic Chalutzim took part in a spiritual event called “Noor: Leading from Darkness to Light” at Mitten Hall. About 100 students and faculty members attended the event in the Owl Cove, which was free and open to anyone interested.
“Noor stands for light, and is an Arabic word. This interfaith event was open to all religious organizations. The organizations that responded helped plan the event,” said Halleh Asaldpour, a student who helped plan the celebration.
The event featured spiritual arts from various faiths. The four religions that were highlighted were the Baha’i, Hindu, Christian and Jewish faiths.
“Our objective was to make the world religions come alive for Temple’s student body through performances, art, food, poetry, speakers,” said Asaldpour.
The event had been in production for four months. Dinner was first served buffet-style and the dishes were representative of each of the four faiths featured that night. There was fish and bread for the Christian faith, Middle Eastern cuisine for the Baha’i faith, Indian cuisine for the Hindu faith, and during intermission, there were Jewish desserts for the Jewish faith. Local restaurants provided food for the event. Afterward, faculty and students were seated at candlelit tables for the performances. Each faith had one guest speaker and two performances.
The Baha’i religion is a newer faith that teaches tolerance and adhesiveness to other faiths. Their goal is to end prejudices and join together like-minded religions.
The Philadelphia Baha’i Workshop, a group of Philadelphia city secondary school students, was one of their performers. This group has been invited to perform for schools in England, and performed two dances called “Suffocating,” and “The Godsend.”
Samar Arygani, a student at Strath Haven High School, has been part of the Philadelphia Baha’i Workshop for seven years.
“I like the Baha’i faith because it brings together all foundations of all the beliefs’ laws and principles and make them apply to today,” she said.
A traditional Hindu dance called the Natyanjali, from the classic dance form of Bharat Natyam, was performed by a Penn State University student and a Temple student. The dance symbolized the changing of the seasons.
Other performances were also provided by the Philadelphia Music Ministry Workshop, Bryan Weber and Andrea Piescik, who recited poetry, Melissa Greenockle and the Messianic Chalutzum and members of the Hindu faith who performed mantra mediation through yoga.
William Deadwyler, who earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in religion from Temple, was a guest speaker on the Hindu faith. Deadwyler practices a denomination called Gaudiya Vaishnava, which means, “devotional Hinduism.” He has been practicing it for over 30 years, and is the Temple president of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. He said that he was first engaged with this faith while he was studying at Temple University, when he saw some devotees chanting on Berks Mall.
“The first thing [that attracted me] was just the idea of chanting in the name of God with spiritual prayer beads and mantra. I decided to start chanting. My consciousness begins to change and I was peaceful and happy,” he said.
The larger goal of the event was something that most of different faiths strive for. Harold Faust is a Bishop of the nondenominational New Hope Revival Center of Philadelphia, and attended the event with the center’s choir.
He said, “The more we bring faith together the stronger the peace. If we don’t get together religiously, we’ll never learn it on a natural basis.”
Diana Huynh can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.