“I’m hoping we come together in a new way, a better way and a closer way, then we ever have before,” said Jan Saeed, the director of Westminster College’s Global Peace and Spirituality Center.
Saeed — who helped to envision and organize the first Celebration of Light Nov. 4 — said the celebration is a way for the community to identify the differences between the many faith traditions people hold across campus, and how we can embrace and learn from those differences.
“I’m hoping we come together in a new way, a better way and a closer way, than we ever have before,” Saeed said.
The event began with a panel in Bill and Vieve Gore School of Business, where Dr. Ashok Joshi gave a keynote speech about his connection to celebrations of light through his personal faith traditions. A panel by students, staff and faculty answered questions about what light means to them on both a physical and spiritual level.
The panelists included:
- Emma Ahlstrom, senior arts administration major
- Omar Al-Jaafari, sophomore computer science major
- Dalton Bamburg, accounts receivable collections coordinator
- Kellie Gerbers, assistant professor of outdoor education and leadership
- Kathryn Julian, assistant professor of history
- Michael Santarosa, registrar.
Afterwards, a social in front of Converse Hall and a speech given by President Beth Dobkin kicked off the lighting of lights around campus.
Omar Al-Jaafari, co-president of the Griffins for the Greater Good Spiritual Life Club and sophomore computer science major, helped organize the event.
“We wanted to figure out how we could bring a little more light onto campus and try to start what could potentially be a tradition,” Al-Jaafari said. “Not only physically — with the lights being out at Richer Commons — but also reminding people that […] we can support each other, and we can have conversations about how we grow from here as a campus during this time.”
During the panel, Al-Jaafari discussed what light means to him, and the traditions he celebrates with his family during the darker months of the year.
“My hope is that people can internalize this event and in their own way, ask, ‘what does light mean to [me]?’” Al-Jaafari said.
Alicia Kuhlmann, co-president of the Griffins for the Greater Good Spiritual Life Club and junior nursing student in the Honors College, said she also helped organize and run the event.
“[…] To do an event like this is really to acknowledge the fact that this is a time of year that can be difficult for so many people,” Kuhlmann said. “[…] Even the smallest spark of light, whatever that is, whatever that means to the person […] is such a remarkable and beautiful thing, because it can light up our whole campus.”
Kuhlmann also said the event gave her a chance to reflect on the meaning of light in her personal life.
“The light in my own life is the understanding of the greater truth in my life that really is shaping the moral compass through which I want to live the rest of my life,” Kuhlmann said. “What does it mean to be a truly loving person, what does it mean to truly live for the sake of others? How does that light craft my everyday life?”
Al-Jaafari said he hopes the Celebration of Light sparks discussions of what light means to each individual, and how to bring that to the collective.
“I know for everyone, it’s going to look different,” Al-Jaafari said. “I think there’s beauty in that. Being able to have those conversations and be open about it, and be free of judgement and ridicule. I think that is the ultimate goal with what we’re trying to do with this event.”