CRYSTAL LAKE – Christians, Muslims, Buddhists and people of many faiths from McHenry County gathered on Martin Luther King Jr. Day to reflect on human dignity in today's world.
Around 160 people attended FaithBridge's fifth annual Martin Luther King Jr. Prayer Breakfast inside D'Andrea's Banquets in Crystal Lake and applauded Imam Plemon El-Amin, the keynote speaker from an Atlanta mosque who focused on King's views on global citizenship.
King, he said, would have much to say on today's headlines, from the gun violence in Chicago to the escalating violence in Iraq and the civil liberty concerns at the National Security Agency.
"We are obligated to think about what Dr. King would have to say about everything going on today," El-Amin said. "They slayed the dreamer, but they did not slay the dream as long as we keep thinking about that."
In the years before his assassination in 1968, King increasingly criticized the United States' involvement in Vietnam and focused his activism on "the moral consciousness" of being a neighbor to all people, El-Amin told the crowd.
A need existed for people to defy allegiances and nationalism and embrace their fellow citizen regardless of their background, said El-Amin who paraphrased and quoted King often in his 20-minute address.
El-Amin's speech connected with many in the audience, who joined together from different faiths and backgrounds to remember King and his legacy to the world. Various area congregations make FaithBridge, a group that promotes understanding between religious communities.
A world traveler himself, El-Amin has visited places like Israel, Palestine, Syria and Egypt to represent Muslim Americans and interfaith followers. He is the Imam Emeritus of the Atlanta Masjid of Al-Islam mosque.
Many people and students across the country also had the day off to think about King's legacy on Monday. The United States has celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day since 1986.
El-Amin's thoughts on King's world view left many in audience thinking about being better global citizens, said Rev. Anne S. Muelleman, who helped organize the FaithBridge event.
"Being better world citizens has to come at the individual level," Muelleman said. "Until we can come to peace at the individual level ... we are not going to find that at a world level."
The event featured prayers, music and speakers from different religions and faiths. FaithBridge organizers also congratulated four student finalists of the group's first-ever essay contest.
Nearly 100 students from the county submitted essays that described their dream for the world.
The four winners, all from Hannah Beardsley Middle School in Crystal Lake, focused their essays on bullying, hunger and mutual respect between individuals.