I am relatively new to martial arts, and have been training in shito-ryu karate for 5 years now
Relatively new??? to whom? Jigorino Kano or "Grandfather" Gracie?
5 years is quite a while I think, of course, I've only been in martial arts for a year and a half now about. We used to train next to some Shotokan Karateka, but I don't know how much that resembles your style. At any rate, it looked (and sounded) like some pretty intense practicing going on, and the students seemed to be having a good time. It certainly seemed like a more rigid, tightly disciplined martial art than aikido, which I'm sure has its own array of benefits and drawbacks.
I think aikido might be just as good or better for bringing people together because an extremely high level of trust needs to be formed in the Aikido dojo. The only thing that keeps us from constantly sparring in the dojo is our individual restraint. When we throw uke, we really are throwing away both uke's "intent" to harm, and our own little demons inside, the most brutal of our animal "instincts".
"To smash, injure, or destroy is the worst sin a human being can committ."
Ueshiba Morihei / Morihei Ueshiba
"[I am like a mirror reflecting all the world from it]."
U.M. / M.U.