Rejuvenated by An Interfaith Experience
By Memoona Ghani, Engage Minnesota
I was part of a building bridges event where Muslim and Christian fellow citizens came together to meet and learn from each other. It was a time well spent where people found the similarities and agreed that differences make the world even more beautiful. Our differences are not a justification for us to hate, humiliate or bully each other. The differences in race, skin color, culture, religion and opinion are reasons human beings are intelligent. Sitting on a table with Christian friends who listened to me and concurred with me on certain points and at the same time they shared their ideas for which I thought to myself “Oh man! I totally agree with what is being said”. I felt the experience was humbling; hence, I said: “It is just so amazing that we are sitting here and accepting and acknowledging each other regardless of our religion and faith.” I listened to a profound statement by a Christian friend at the table who said: “I think it is because of our faith and belief that we understand each another.”
Numerous times it is the religion and faith in God that brings people together. And the fact that most of us think and feel this way is quite a relief and knowing that mindset exists also helps people meet each other with positive intent.
Due to volunteering projects, I am involved in, people of different faiths standing up for each other are always on my mind. Being IRG (Islamic Resource Group) speaker is one of these fruitful volunteer opportunities. I have to say that some days are hectic and delivering a presentation at the end of such a day requires some effort. I had one of those days in March. After a tedious day at work, I had an IRG presentation on the topic “Similarities and differences between Islam and Christianity”. Since I did not know who the audience will be and was feeling exhausted, I was not sure if I would be able to do the presentation. I wondered, will they come with some negative preconceived notions and how much precise information will I have to provide, etc. However, I made a Dua (supplication) to God to help and went for the presentation in the evening.
I counted the people in the audience on six fingers. Five women and one gentleman! The presentation went well and once again we were able to see the commonalities between Islam and Christianity and were able to acknowledge the differences. My delightful moment was when I talked about Islam’s viewpoint on the Original Sin. I explained:
“In Islam, Eve is not responsible for the sin of eating from the forbidden tree. Both Adam and Eve disobeyed God. God reprimanded, both of them, and both sought forgiveness, and God forgave them both.”
Almost all the ladies/women in the audience nodded agreeably and glanced at each other with a look of relief as if in their minds they were saying “YEAH BABY – Hallelujah to that.” The presentation ended, and Q&A started. The questions that were put forth by each of the members showed that they are genuinely interested in knowing. And through this Q&A session, I felt that these five ladies sitting in the audience are not some ordinary folks. They are intelligent, compassionate, and considerate.
Did I mention that I am the person who loves to smile and loves when I see people smiling? That is why my respect for these five women in the audience was inevitable. These ladies were laughing throughout. The real treat started at the end of the whole session when everybody was ready to leave. These beautiful women stayed back and introduced themselves. They were a group from St. Christopher Episcopal Church in Roseville. Janet (Deacon), Diane (Deacon), Elizabeth (Youth Coordinator), Allison (Parishioner), Kate (Parishioner).
Elizabeth is a beautiful petite lady and soft spoken, driven by her faith in God. Kate was quiet most of the time, but a strong speaker. Allison was a warm and welcoming woman, who smiled the whole time. Janet had her team under her wings, and it was evident that she was the Deacon at her church. She was very brave about speaking against any injustice to human beings. In fact, they all were. And last but not least Diane – a charming speaker. She introduced the church, and the work they are doing for the fellow being, something majority of Muslims in the community have been doing too.
How pleasing it is that we share the similar sentiments towards common good of humanity. We care about the same issues like youth mentoring, homelessness, women empowerment, refugee crisis, poverty, hunger and much more. We all, because of our faiths, want to address and resolve these issues to make our communities a better place. This whole experience just made my day. Even though I felt tired before the presentation, at the end of the presentation I was rejuvenated.
The common grounds expressed made us good friends. And these fabulous ladies invited me to their beautiful church to do another Islamic Resource Group, (IRG) presentation. My friend, Lubna Moon and I, were welcomed with warm cookies and bright smiles. Who doesn’t love soft chocolate chip cookies fresh out of the oven? I received an invitation to a Wednesday Soup and bread dinner and an IRG presentation. They accepted an invitation to meet Muslim neighbors at a mosque open house in Blaine.
Now I can’t wait to see them for more IRG presentations and especially for the Reviving Islamic Sisterhood through Empowerment (RISE) kickoff fundraiser. I felt humbled by their willingness to support the fantastic cause initiated by RISE. And this is how the friendship and acceptance began, and Insha’Allah (by the will of God) will flourish –because of our Religions.
Memoona Ghani works as a Business Analyst at the University of Minnesota. She did her Masters in Software Systems from the University of St. Thomas. She lives in Maple Grove.
WANT TO ADD YOUR VOICE?
If you like this piece, share it on social media. We invite you to join us in this project on our social media sites. We welcome your voice to the Comment section below — or consider writing a commentary, podcast or photo story. (For more information, email engageminnesota@.)