On Oct. 23, 2019, Dr. Omid Safi, an Asian and Middle Eastern Studies professor at Duke University, spoke to Fordham students about Martin Luther King Jr.'s life and legacy. The event was part of the Fordham Theology 1000 First-Year Experience and required all students currently taking the class to attend. That evening, nearly 200 freshman students filled the McNally Amphitheater at Fordham Lincoln Center to hear Safi speak.
Safi is a specialist in Islamic mysticism and contemporary Islam. He has also authored books about contemporary social justice issues in Islam, including "Progressive Muslims: On Justice, Gender, and Pluralism." He was brought in by Fordham's Theology Department to discuss how theological ideas in King's "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" connects to society today.
"Where's the room for love? What does it mean to speak of love, to speak of mercy, to speak of justice in an age of ours?" Safi asked the audience.
When discussing social injustices, Safi said that "the reason we want justice for our Mexican brothers and sisters or black sisters and brothers is not some Marxist theology, it's a work of love."
"If you love somebody, you would want the same you want for your own body, the same you want for your children ... you would want them to live a life of freedom," said Safi.
"I really enjoyed Omid Safi's lecture," said Megan Ferreira, Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) '23. "I felt that he was personable and really captured the audience's attention. He had a great presentation and I found it inspiring and very relatable."
Safi encouraged the audience to be the activists of today, asking Fordham students where the "Dr. Kings" of today's society are. He referred specifically to Black Lives Matter and highlighted inconsistencies and biases in the criminal justice system.
Safi called upon the Fordham students in the audience to stand up against a world plagued with war, poverty and government corruption as well as problems within criminal reform, healthcare and education. Safi still believes that students can build a better world for the future and spoke about the importance of solutions that rely on a foundation of love and justice.
Jack Pappas, a theology professor at FCLC, said he "was thrilled by the extent of the genuine enthusiasm of my students toward the lecture. Dr. Safi's lecture gave students a rare opportunity to hear one of this country's leading scholars of Islam offer commentary on one of the great Christian figures of the last century."
Pappas continued, "He challenged students to think about the meaning of King's legacy for meeting the political and moral challenges of our time in a way that provoked and inspired."
To end his lecture, Safi told Fordham students that "as long as there's a baby left in the cage, as long as black folk are being shot by the police, as long as corruption is running about ... try to save the soul of America like King did."