Aaron Spiegel, guest blogger
"Next to being the children of God our greatest privilege is being the brothers of each other."
We in the religion world use the word interfaith much too often. And in my opinion, most of what passes for interfaith dialogue is not dialogue at all — it’s a lecture about why I’m right and you’re wrong. It’s not that we’re all religious zealots, but most often the forum for these dialogues are set up to create division rather than civil discourse. Put simply, we’re much better at talking than listening.
I recently had a chance to experience real interfaith dialogue. Butler University students from Hillel, a Jewish student organization, and Muslim Student Alliance decided they wanted to organize a dinner and conversation around Eid and the High Holy Days. The two organizations have collaborated in the past couple years on similar events and have a great working and social relationship.
The students formulated the agenda, which was brilliantly simple — let’s each give the very basics of our holiday and then ask each other questions. Let’s eat together, listen to each other, and ask each other questions.
On the surface, the conversation seemed light and conversational. Yet, the exchange was profound. These young Jews and young Muslims genuinely shared with each other. There was no attempt at making nice; they genuinely liked talking to each other. There were no overt attempts at finding commonality; it was inherent. They recognized the humanity in one another. They learned about, and from, one another in ways that are lasting and powerful. I’m sure it will influence how these young adults see the “other” in their lives. I know it’s influenced mine!
Rabbi Aaron Spiegel is campus rabbi for Butler University.Comments
Colleen Scheck, Producer
The Australian Broadcasting Company offers a lot of religion programming across multiple formats, so I like to keep an eye on what they’re doing. This week, the television program Compass is replaying a 2008 episode that followed two Muslim families during Ramadan. In light of our Revealing Ramadan project, I enjoyed watching this 30-minute video about how Muslims “down under” experience the holy month:
"Break-Fast At Mobinah’s"
Ramadan, the world-wide Muslim month of fasting and feasting, has begun and Compass follows two families through the most important event on the Islamic calendar. Fadi and his family are Lebanese-Australians who run a busy restaurant. Each day, on empty stomachs, they cook for crowds of ravenous diners who descend after sunset. Mobinah Ahmad and her extended Indian-Australian family work and study through Ramadan, and hope to lose a little weight along the way. The Ahmads also run Sydney’s largest Eid celebration to mark the end of Ramadan. What sustains them through the day when food doesn’t? And how can not eating bring you closer to Allah?
Shiraz Janjua, Associate Producer
Well, Ramadan is officially over and I’ve spent the past few days at various parties celebrating by eating, eating, and, oh yeah, eating. What ends up happening on Eid (after the morning communal prayer at the mosque) is usually this circuit of house visits, going from family to family, eating, popping in and out, eating, seeing people, chatting, eating, then heading off to another house party. At each new house, I’m just too polite to say, “I understand you’ve been slaving over a hot stove all day, but I just came from two other parties. I can’t eat anymore. Touch my belly. Touch it!”
Yesterday was thankfully free of parties, as is tonight, but apparently my cousin and his family (and I) are booked for two Saturday parties, the first at 11:00 am. It’s going to be a long day. To what could I compare all this? Thanksgiving—both the word and the holiday. Eid is basically several days of eating and socializing and, hopefully, feeling happy to be alive.
My colleague Rob McGinley Myers, who sits next to me, asked me if the experience of fasting changes the way I look at food. I admit that it doesn’t turn me into a saint in my everyday life, but it absolutely affects how I think about politics. I can choose to stop starving. A lot of people can’t.
Anyway, a hearty Eid mubarak to those who are (still?) celebrating.Comments