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Walking the Campus with Father Mike

This article originally appeared on the Duke Global blog.

A priest discusses how his service at Duke has deepened his faith.

-By Duke Global staff

Duke students call something forth in me, said Father Michael Martin, better known as Father Mike, at a Wednesdays at the Center event on Sept. 18.

Giovanni Zanalda, Fr. Mike Martin, and Julie Maxwell talk at a table

From left to right: Giovanni Zanalda, director of the Duke Center for International and Global Studies; Father Michael Martin, director of the Duke Catholic Center and Julie Maxwell, program coordinator at the Duke Islamic Studies Center.
Photo by Renate Kwon / Duke Center for International and Global Studies

 

“I thought I had grown into an adult faith, but I realized after being here that there’s still much more,” said Father Mike, director of the Duke Catholic Center. “These students make me want to be a holier man, a better priest and Franciscan.”

At Duke, Father Mike sees his role as “walking with others” to assist them in learning more about their spirituality and to empower students to walk with their peers.

Father Mike spoke at the John Hope Franklin Center as the first speaker in the series, “Conversations with Duke’s Religious Life Leaders.” Giovanni Zanalda, director of the Duke Center for International and Global Studies (DUCIGS) explained that the idea of the series was to get a sense of what religious leaders are doing on campus. This academic year, DUCIGS will host four different speakers, with representatives from Hindu Life, Jewish Life and Muslim Life.

About 20 percent of Duke students are Roman Catholic, according to the Duke Catholic Center, and the Catholic community is the largest single denomination on campus (the Jewish community is the next largest on campus at 11 percent). On average, 500 students attend weekend Mass at the Duke Chapel.

At the talk, Father Mike emphasized the growing need for a shift in Duke culture, away from an emphasis on “doing it all” to one focused on building student strength and resiliency. Coming to Duke after serving as president and headmaster of his former Catholic high school in Baltimore, Maryland, Father Mike has seen major shifts in education over the past 20 years. Asked about the difference to coming to Duke, he noted that “the stakes and the stress are higher.”

Dismissing the notion that an exposure to higher education replaces religious faith, Father Mike argued that the long tradition of Christianity has focused on creating spaces of mindfulness. He believes that prayer is rooted in the individual but connects to something outside of ourselves."I never thought that coming to Duke would deepen my faith the way that it has. I am humbled by the studetns here who engage their faith. I feel they call forth from me something greater." Fr. Michael Martin, Duke Catholic Center

“Students come to me and say they don’t know how to pray,” Father Mike said. “I tell them not to chase God, but to acknowledge his presence in your life at the moment.”

Wednesdays at the Center is a free, weekly public lecture series held every Wednesday at noon in the Ahmadieh Family Conference Hall at the John Hope Franklin Center (2204 Erwin Road, Room 240). The series is sponsored by the John Hope Franklin Center and the Duke University Center for International and Global Studies.

Here are the upcoming talks in the series:

Visualizing the Muslim Gandhi

by Kelley Reardon

As part of the Wednesdays at the Center series, the John Hope Franklin Center for Interdisciplinary and International Studies welcomed Tim Dobe, Th.D. and Sumathi Ramaswamy, Ph.D. for a conversation on “Visualizing the Muslim Gandhi.”

 

The John Hope Franklin Center, Duke India Initiative, and Duke Islamic Center hosted the event, which discussed the connection of Gandhi to Islamic culture. Dr. Dobe is an Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Grinnell College and a current visiting fellow at the Duke Islamic Studies Center. Dr. Ramaswamy is a James B. Duke Professor of History and International Comparative Studies at Duke, Co-Director of Duke’s India Initiative, and President of the American Institute of Indian Studies.

 

 

Dr. Dobe discussed how there is often a focus on Gandhi’s Hinduism and western influence, but less attention on his ties to Muslim culture. In his earlier years, Gandhi was often depicted in art as “a man of the people,” and he was known to put immense effort into dressing appropriately to fit in with his surroundings. For instance, there are images of Gandhi in a suit while he was training to be a lawyer, and images of him in traditional Indian dress when he returned to India.

 

Furthermore, Dr. Dobe shared many works of Khwaja Hsan Nizami, who studied Gandhi and is known for his literary pieces. Nizami even predicted that Gandhi’s legacy would extent to the year 2050, when there would be a landscape of ethics and non-violence and nearly all Muslims would be vegetarian.

 

Dr. Ramaswamy shared artistic depictions of Gandhi later in life, when he would go without clothes and present himself nothing but a loin cloth. Artists depict this stage of Gandhi’s life in different ways—for instance, the modern Indian painter Maqbool Fida Husain did not shy away from painting Gandhi’s unclothed body. Meanwhile, Sayed Haidar Raza, who was also a modern Indian painter, rarely showed Gandhi in his paintings. Yet Raza’s work is still a reflection of his perspective on Gandhi.

 

As Ramaswamy explained, “there is no single way in which Muslim artists respond to Gandhi’s barely clothed body.” There was also the potential that artists were worried about allowing their faith to stand in the way of their art. However, the limitations that faith may have had on an artist’s work can be difficult to determine.

Blood Letters Highlight Video

Highlights from Professor Xi Lian’s talk as part of the Wednesdays at the Center series at the John Hope Franklin Center.

“Blood Letters” is the first authoritative biography of Lin Zhao, a poet and journalist executed in 1968 at the height of the Cultural Revolution. The only Chinese citizen known to have openly and steadfastly opposed communism under Mao, she rooted her dissent in her Christian faith and expressed it in long prophetic writings done in her own blood, at times on her clothes and on cloth torn from her bed sheets. Miraculously, Lin Zhao’s prison writings survived, though they have only recently come to light. Drawing on these works and others from the years before her arrest, as well as interviews with her friends, her classmates, and other former political prisoners, Xi Lian tells the story of a young woman whom the late Noel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo called “the only voice of freedom left for contemporary China”.

Xi Lian is a Professor of World Christianity at Duke University’s Divinity School. Professor Lian’s research is focused on China’s modern encounter with Christianity. His first book, The Conversion of Missionaries (1997), is a critical study of American Protestant missions against the backdrop of rising Chinese nationalism in the early twentieth century. His second book, Redeemed by Fire: The Rise of Popular Christianity in Modern China (2010), winner of the 2011 Christianity Today Book Award, examines the development of missionary Christianity into a vibrant, indigenous faith of the Chinese masses. One of his current research projects looks beyond grassroots Christianity and examines the emergence of Protestant elites and their prominent, if also precarious, role in the search for civil society in today’s China.

This event is presented by the John Hope Franklin Center and the Asian Pacific Studies Institute.

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