By Sanya Mansoor
Niagara was delighted to host representatives from the Archdiocese of Chicago community for a cozy Iftar meal at our office on the evening of Tuesday, Aug. 6. Our guests came in with happy faces, eager to feed their appetite for interfaith dialogue and Turkish food.
Brendan, director of Niagara’s Center for Cultural Exchange and Interfaith Collaboration took the lead with a brief introduction on the significance of Iftar in the holy month of Ramadan. Muslims around the world fast, refraining from both food and drink from sunrise to sunset for an entire month. Brendan explained that for many, Ramadan was a time of introspection and growth. A concept, Brendan mentioned, Catholics could surely relate to given the Iftar’s ironic alignment with the Church’s celebration of the feast of transfiguration. On this day, Christians around the world are asked to contemplate on their recognition of God’s power or “light” in one’s life.
Most of the audience was already familiar with the significance of Ramadan. Some were fasting in a show of solidarity with their Muslim counterparts.
The Archdiocese Iftar brought together 15 Roman Catholic guests with Muslim and non-Muslim Niagara staff and friends for an intimate and conversation-filled evening.
“We want to showcase these traditions at a time that is holy for [the people celebrating], not to pull them away from their activities but use it as a space for sharing,” Brendan explained. “It’s an opportunity to lift up the local voices of that tradition so people can learn more about them and engage them.”
“I’m trying to be a part of the human family.”
This was one of the many sentiments shared in a casual round-table conversation in which, everyone was eager to learn about each other’s beliefs. Subsequent contributions to the dialogue expressed a similar leaning towards unity and understanding.
All, including the some of the archdiocese representative also had the opportunity to learn more about the Focolare movement. Founded in Italy, the movement is known to promote ideals of unity and brotherhood. Its appeal has been pertinent, especially among the younger generation. Parallels were drawn against the social movement known as Hizmet. This movement is a worldwide civic initiative rooted in the spiritual and humanistic tradition of Islam and inspired by the ideas of Mr. Fethullah Gülen. It is a movement most well known for its advancement of quality education around the world. Although the Hizmet movement was originally made up for people with a Turkish-Muslim identity, the movement is now active in non-Muslim nations and attracts people from all cultures and faiths.
The evening was beautiful in all its simplicity. It was a night of learning, laughing and feasting. It was a night in which commonality and differences between faiths were not scrutinized but celebrated.