On January 9, 2021, the Starr King community gathered on Zoom for our 9th annual and first fully online Symposium. This year’s keynote title was “Birthing Interfaith Rituals of Resistance to Disrupt State Violence.”
This year we were thrilled to have Professor Najeeba Syeed as our honored teacher!
Professor Syeed is a graduate of Guilford College and Indiana University Maurer School of Law, where she was a teaching fellow in the area of mediation and ran the university’s mediation program. Professor Syeed served as Associate Professor of Interreligious Education at Claremont School of Theology and Director of the Center for Global Peacebuilding. In July, Professor Syeed joined the Chicago Theological Seminary faculty as Associate Professor in Muslim and Interreligious Studies.
Professor Syeed received the Jon Anson Ford Award for reducing violence twice and was named Southern California Mediation Association’s “Peacemaker of the Year” in 2007. Her scholarship encompasses Muslim peacebuilding, interfaith just peacemaking and diplomacy, Islamic spiritual formation for peacemaking, pedagogies for inter-religious education, and justice-grounded transformative rituals.
Professor Syeed’s writings have been published widely on academic and popular settings. Most recently, she authored a chapter in the upcoming book, Asian and Asian American Women in Theology and Religion. Her co-edited book Critical Perspectives on Interreligious Education: Experiments in Empathy will be available in 2020. Syeed regularly appears on various media entities to speak on topics such as religion and politics, interfaith peace building, and social justice activism.
Symposium began with pre-recorded Interfaith Messages and Prayers of Resistance from Starr King students followed by an opening ritual with Miriam Peretz. Miriam is an internationally celebrated dancer who has devoted her life to empowering and healing women through the art of dance, ritual practice and community building.
Rev. Dr. Gabriella Lettini (Dean of Faculty) offered words of welcome and SKSM students JeKaren Olaoya, Li Kynvi, and Julie Bond lit the chalice, as well as the traditional red and white candles. Professor Syeed was then awarded the Litterarum Humanarum Doctor (Doctor of Humane Letters) by Rev. Dr. Sofia Betancourt and Starr King Board Chair Ted Fetter.
In her keynote lecture, Professor Syeed interrogated and troubled the idea that civility is the primary goal of interfaith action and dialogue. She offered examples of how religious leaders and communities have developed ritual protests as a form of contemporary sacred resistance to inhumane migration policies.
After lunch, attendees were broken into small groups for community conversation and reflection.
Gala King and Rev. Ranwa Hammamy, representatives from the UU Justice Ministry of California and the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity, led a two-hour exploration of the roles and rituals of faith leaders and organizers in nonviolent direct action. They began with a brief overview of faith-rooted organizing theory and skills as shaped by our values and visions, followed by a discussion on the importance of nonviolent resistance, and how religious practice and faith are called to engage movements towards liberation.
Gala King, Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity
Rev. Ranwa Hammamy, UU Justice Ministry of California
The day ended with a short closing ceremony, including a blessing and sending forth by Pastor Jacqueline Duhart and a ritual performance by Miram Peretz.