As the month of Ramadan nears an end next week on Tuesday, July 5th, it’s a time for the 1.6 billion Muslims around the world to finish their month-long dedication to prayer, charity and other acts of good deeds while seeking forgiveness as well as guidance. Many are currently celebrating the last 10 days in a total disconnect from the world to pray which is called Iʿtikāf (retreat). Others are using the holiday as an opportunity to come together to build lifelong relationships with their neighbors in the local community. This past week on Tuesday, a large group of nearly 100 local Muslims and people of many faiths were brought together by the Pacifica Institute, University of Puget Sound, and Associated Ministries to enjoy an Iftar dinner breaking the daily fast at sundown.
“As we all gather here tonight coming from different backgrounds, I see some faces that I know and those that I don’t know that I hope to meet,” said Tezcan Inanlar, Pacifica Institute’s Northwest Regional Director. “I want to encourage all of us to take our time and try to connect which is the way to bring our communities to a solidarity so we can build a capacity, foster relationships and mutual understanding. It’s already happening here in Tacoma and I’m very hopeful for that.”
The room was filled with nearly 100 guests and practicing Muslims from the local community. Some were attending to learn more about the Muslim tradition of Ramadan and Iftar, others were seeking to form new relationships with people of a different faith, while others still were celebrating the end of their fast as well as the company of newcomers. As the second annual event, many were returning this year in hopes of showing their support.
The event was also educational, including a video on Ramadan and what it means to those who celebrate it. Guest speakers included members from different faiths who commented on the religious virtues related to togetherness and peace.
“In one of the verses in the Quran, Allah says to all human kind that he created you from a single pair of a male and a female and made you into nations and tribes that you might come to know each other,” said Dr. Etga Ugur, Professor in the Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences School at University of Washington Tacoma. “In the Quran, Allah also says if he wanted he could have created us as a single community but he chose to create diversity of tongues and colors so that we can strive as a community or race and strive in virtues and seek unity in diversity.”
It is accurate to say the entire room of attendees felt unified as they grew closer to one another, and learned that we are not as different as one might think. The recurring theme that we all hold the same virtues dear within our respective faiths and want the best for our fellow mankind was present in both the presentations as well as the individual discussions at each table.
“This country, though far from perfect, is as great as it is because of the contributions from refugees from all over the world over the years,” said Rabbi Bruce Kadden of Temple Beth El. “Let us open our hearts and open our doors to refugees who need our love and support. May all who are refugees find love, support and care. May the wars which ravaged their homelands be resolved so that those who wish may return home. And may all who suffer come to know peace and justice.”
Featured Photo: Members of different religions share dinner and discussion at the 2016 interfaith Iftar dinner at the University of Puget Sound. (Photo credit/Bunyamin Sisman)