Christians and Muslims came together for an interfaith event at a United Church of Christ congregation in Virginia July 23, and broke the Ramadan fast together. The meal they shared followed a speech from a Jesuit priest, deported from Syria, to a group of 250 people at Rock Spring Congregational UCC in Arlington, Va.
Father Paolo Dall'Oglio, deported in June for speaking out against the oppressive government regime, detailed the trauma he witnessed during the revolution. The discussion provided clarity of the complex situation in Syria, and demonstrated that Christians and Muslims can sit in each other's company and pursue common goals.
He spoke at length and was given a rousing standing ovation, said Michael Bell, one of the event's three organizers, and there was an extensive question and answer session afterward with a crowd that was mostly from a Middle East background. "They clearly regarded him as one of their own," Bell said. "He didn't say, 'I'm an Italian living in Syria.' He said, 'I am Syrian.'"
Those in attendance also broke the Ramadan fast with a meal, known as the Iftar, as a spirit of goodwill between members of different religions as the Muslim community provided the meal and a Christian church offered to host it. Rock Spring UCC has been developing a relationship with an Islamic Center in Falls Church, Va., sharing socially in study and in worship.
Dall'Oglio suggested that Christians and Muslims could cooperate in the "cultural and psychological rehabilitation of the youth who have been drawn into extremism." He ended with a call for dialogue and for grass roots democracy, with help from the international community.