U of O’s Intercultural Dialogue Institute holds Rumi-inspired concert in time for Valentine’s Day

In a world filled with growing anxieties and racial tensions, it can be easy to conform and remain silent, something that Ottawa’s Intercultural Dialogue Institute (IDI) club is working to combat.

On Sunday, Feb. 12, IDI sought to end the silence with an evening of performances that ranged from poetry recitation and speeches to singing. Much of the festivities revolved around the historical figure Rumi, who was an Islamic poet, judge, and scholar in 13th century Persia, and is a bestselling poets in the United States today.

The idea for Rumi Concert Night was originally proposed by the national IDI, and this Sunday event was the first of its kind at the U of O.

Despite a blowing snowstorm outside, the seats in Terminus were filled with over 70 people from every age and background.

Javid Moshahed, a third-year student and a coordinator within the IDI club, recited “Listen to the Reed Flute,” one of Rumi’s famous poems, in perfectly fluent Persian.

When asked about the motivation for his performance, Moshahed told the Fulcrum that he thought the poem was important because of the philosophical impact that Rumi’s work has on audiences.

“(Rumi) is preaching for spiritual awareness so that others should become aware of the separation (between their souls and a divine being). He gives humans a superiority over other things,” he shared.

Two of the recurring themes in Rumi’s work are love and dialogue, which, according to the IDI club, is one of the main reasons that they chose Rumi as their theme.

Julia Salven, a master’s student and communications representative for the IDI club, explains that “Rumi is all about love, so (we thought) why not have a Rumi event close to Valentine’s Day?”

Following Moshahed’s opening performance, the audience heard speeches about Rumi’s global influence from Angela Sumegi, an associate professor of humanities and religion at Carleton University, and Shehnaz Karim, a B.C.-based expert on Islamic studies. They were then treated to an hour of Rumi-inspired music by a live band.

Connor Avery Grant, a third-year student and the master of ceremonies for Rumi Concert Night, first joined the IDI club because of his love for diversity.

“I’ve noticed that there’s almost a lack of appreciation for (diversity) in a lot of people. We see it everyday but we never really stop to think,” shared Grant.

Grant’s thoughts were echoed by many of the performers throughout the night, who encouraged the audience to talk about and express their love, not hate.

Following the last performance, the audience broke into a unified rhythmic clap with cheers for an encore.

Due to the success of the evening, Salven hopes that the IDI club will be able to host another concert night sometime next year.

By organizing events like this, Grant says that the aim of the IDI is to help students feel safe and loved when they openly talk about their culture.

“I also hope, as with all our events, that we get a deeper appreciation of each other’s values and a deeper appreciation of what makes diversity important.”