Unitarian Universalist Fellowship holds multi-faith memorial


Donna Veeneman performs a Native American ritual Sunday night at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of DeKalb, 158 N.First Street. The church held a multi-faith gathering called September 11: decade of impact, moment of decision.

By Kelly Bauer

Representatives of various religious groups were invited Sunday night to the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 158 N. Fourth St. in DeKalb, to take part in “Decade of Impact: A Multi-faith Gathering.”

The Decade of Impact gathering was a memorial to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that occurred ten years ago. Unitarian Universalist Reverend Linda Slabon said the meeting was about “cutting across racial, religious and economic barriers to help heal the wounds we get over time and life.” However, the meeting was also about listening, learning and multiculturalism.

“I think that’s a big part of it,” Slabon said. “It’s important to be proud of your nation, of the people who had struggled and suffered beside you, and a lot of communities will celebrate patriotism or focus only on those people who are like you. It’s more challenging, but I think more rewarding, when we take the time to listen and lift up with people who are genuinely different.”

The religious representatives gave blessings and read passages from their respective religious works. Syed Umar Warsi, junior biology and psychology major, delivered a spoken verse piece that focused on growing up as a Muslim following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Clio, Cymbal and Bread & Roses, three local musical groups sang songs of peace.

“The first [song we performed], ‘Holy War,’ was written by Taylor Atkins; he’s a history professor,” said Eric Jones, a member of Clio and an assistant professor of history at NIU. “He wrote that song and it comes out of this question of how these people of various faiths can commit acts of war in the name of their prophets when their prophets speak out against that. It was a fitting 9/11 memorial song.”

Prior to the night ending, attendees divided into groups of four or five people and spoke more privately about their experiences on Sept. 11 or their feelings about the attacks and multiculturalism. Vladymyr Johnson, who attends Umpqua Community College in Oregon, attended and said he thought the event was successful because of the “deep stories” people shared during it.

“I’d say when people share their stories, that’s the best part,” Johnson said. “It’s really emotional. You can’t make this stuff up.”

David Becker, religious education director at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, said the group wished to reach out beyond their congregation for the meeting. They sent out “widespread” invitations to attract speakers and started planning the memorial gathering at the beginning of summer. Originally, the event was simply to be a multi-faith and arts event, and Becker said he had no idea if it would be successful. Slabon said it was the first of its kind for the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in DeKalb that she knew of.

“There is incredible power in this room and if we let it stay in this room, it’s a mistake,” Becker said.