The Time is Now and We are the Ones Called to Do Interfaith Work!
I don't know if others have been involved in Ramadan or in supporting the Sikhs as they invite the community into their memorial services for those killed in Wisconsin, but I think all of us including and especially Unity has a big part to play in bringing unity to our communities through interfaith work.
In the summer of 2012, I and our church were blessed to be invited to attend 5 Iftar Dinners (evening breaking of the Ramadan sunrise to sunset daily fasts) with 5 different communities. Seeing the intense discipline they go though (no food or drink, even in the heat, for the long summer days for a month), inspires me deeply. During Ramadan I try to go without lunch to get a sense of 1) how others in the world feel who are hungry, and 2) how with God I can overcome difficulties and maintain self-discipline. I have trouble doing even that. I have developed a deep respect for my Muslim brothers and sisters, who after these long days of going without, come together in community at their Mosque every night to pray, hear a message, break the fast, pray more (always with their bodies), to eat (usually different families sponsor the food each evening), and then pray more and listen to the Qur'an. The entire Qur'an is read in the Holy month of Ramadan.
I have been working with our local Progressive Christians Uniting Group and our new Interfaith Witnesses to help a local Islamic community (Al Nur) that is meeting in a house, build a Mosque. Unfortunately the neighbors have opposed it, so many of us have gone to all-day hearings in San Bernardino County to stand up for religious freedom. A week ago pigs legs were thrown onto the property presumably to desecrate it. The interfaith community showed up as a sign of support along with the television and newspaper reporters. I was quoted in an article yesterday, not my best words, but sound bytes. If you are interested check it out at http://www.sbsun.com/ci_21306133/interfaith-witnesses-show-support-muslim-community?IADID=Search-www.sbsun.com-www.sbsun.com. Also with two hours notice after I opened and sent an email invitation to attend a Memorial Service at the closest Sikh Temple, I and three other interfaith friends arrived at the Gurdwara in Walnut. My neighbor Rabbi Zev Feyer, Cantor Paul Buch from Temple Beth Israel and Chaplain Zandra Wagoner from the University of La Verne all answered my call to attend. We were greeted with orange head coverings bearing Sikh symbols, T-Shirts sporting "SEE GOD IN ALL. I AM SKIH. RESPECT ALL FAITHS" on the front and "NEVER FORGET 8-5-2012, A house of worship is a place of peace" on the back. We put on the T-Shirts, covered our heads, removed our shoes and entered the beautifully painted and sacred space within.
My interfaith friend SimranKaur Khalsa from Los Angeles led us down the center aisle to place a blessing bill on an offering box and then bow down to touch our third eye to the sacred ground. Then women sat on one side and men on the other on the soft carpeted floor covered by sheets. The room was filled with beautiful sacred chants for an hour as hundreds filed in, leaving their blessings and bowing before taking their seats and filling up the room. A sweet pudding was served to all present to remind us of the sweetness of life. Speeches were made by local and area Sikh leaders and a local congressman and then we of the interfaith community were asked to share. Our presence there meant a great deal to that community that is living in grief and fear. Let us open our minds and hearts to understand and welcome them into our churches and interfaith communities, so they can be known for the grace and love they are.
I received this You.Tube link about "Why Sikhs Wear Turbans" that I found very informative and interesting. Again their courage and values need to be known and commended. Hope you enjoy.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c78XrBvgBtMI am also sending a few pictures of our interfaith group at the beautiful Gurdwara in Walnut, CA.
Fri, August 17, 2012
by Rev. Jan Chase