Cleveland church hosts Holy Week Iftar for Muslim partners
They’ve been friends and partners for five years. But the pandemic prevented them from gathering in person since 2019 — until this week.
“We thought Holy Week would be a great time for the Iftar,” said the Rev. Jason Thompson, pastor of the Ohio church. “While this week is especially important to Christians, we recognize our shared faith in God. Ramadan is holy and sacred to our Muslim friends and it is a joy to honor that with them.
“For us, hosting an Iftar is more than just building community. It is our acknowledgement that our still-speaking God speaks to different people in different ways. There is a Hindu proverb that sums it up: ‘There are many lamps, but only one light.’”
The church and the Turkish cultural organization have gathered together for several interfaith celebrations, worship services and Iftars. This is the second such dinner they’ve held at West Park UCC. The two faith groups began a partnership in 2017 and spent the first few years getting to know each other, Thompson said. Since then, they’ve come together for cooking classes and educational programs, too.
“Our bond is now strong enough that we can ask the hard questions of each other, that we might learn more deeply,” Thompson said.
But they haven’t been together as a group for more than two years. COVID kept them apart. That’s why the Tuesday-night dinner was a real celebration.
Before the food — shared by both groups and enjoyed at sunset — the church’s Muslim friends enlightened the gathering about their faith.
Dinner began at 8:05 because many Muslims fast during Ramadan, refraining from both food and drink during the daylight hours.
Thompson said as the two groups embrace and acknowledge their differences, they find their commonalities.
“When I say, ‘you’re not like me,’ that is not a bad thing,” he said. “It is a thing of beauty to understand that our infinite God has created so much difference. And when we understand that fully, when we come to believe that God loves all God’s children, we see that we are more the same than we are different. Each of us is created and loved by God.”
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