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Pullman, Moscow faiths meet around dinner tables

By Carol Spurling

Members of Pullman and Moscow faith groups find that making friends is easier when they sit around a dinner table together.

Muslims share meal, values of fasting

Around a meal breaking their Ramadan fast at sunset on Saturday, Oct. 22 at the Cathedral of St. John, Spokane area Muslims provided an educational, community building event.  Ramadan concludes on Nov. 4.

Breaking the fast began with dates, juice and samosa potato pies. Muslims joined in their sunset prayer.  After the evening meal, Mamdouh El-Aarag of the Spokane Islamic Center gave a presentation on the significance of Ramadan in Islam. 

He described Ramadan as a month in which people seek mercy, forgiveness and patience.

“People fast to purify their souls and bring them closer to Allah (God).  It trains people to stay away from forbidden things and expresses self-discipline, self-control and self-evaluation,” Mamdouh said.

He discussed several spiritual, social and physical benefits to the fasting person—forgiveness of sins, intercession on the judgment day, appreciation of blessings, empathy for the needy, cleansing the body of toxins, weight reduction and clearing the brain. 

During Ramadan, believers are to give charity to the poor and to work to  improve human relationships, he explained.

Mamdouh said Islam promotes good conduct, honesty, love, standing by the needy, visiting the sick, guarding one’s tongue, respecting parents, stopping disputes and being united.

“Our goal is to know and worship Allah and to spread peace, love, justice and mercy,” he said.

Interfaith meals

Abdullah Albinali, a student from Qatar, serves soup at Ramadan meal in Spokane.

The Interfaith Potluck that was sponsored by the Pullman Interfaith Dialogue on October 20 at Gladish Gym gave people such an opportunity.

Called “Feasting and Fasting,” the event was held in honor of the October and November holy days of four faith traditions: Ramadan in Islam, the Birth of The Báb in Bahá’í, Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur in Judaism, and All Saints Day and All Souls Day in Christianity.

The Interfaith Dialogue started long ago. Leaders from different faiths meet regularly in Pullman and Moscow,” explained organizer Gail Stearns, director of the Common Ministry at Washington State University (WSU).

“After Sept. 11, 2001, we decided to have a potluck and invite everyone.  Hundreds of people came. We’ve done it every year since as a way for people to meet and learn about their neighbors,” she said, pointing out how the event helps people experience the advantage of living in a small, but diverse community.

About 90 people attended this year, bringing such dishes as noodle kugel, samosas, lasagna, khataif, sopa de arroz, brownies, baklava and apple crisp.

The start of the dinner coincided with sunset, so those fasting during daylight hours for Ramadan would be able to eat.

Many attendees were international students and professors from WSU and the University of Idaho (UI), people who help create the local diversity. 

Speakers summed up aspects of holy days in October.

S.M. “Ghazi” Ghazanfar, emeritus professor and chair of the UI College of Business and Economics, welcomed the crowd. He is a member of the Moscow Interfaith Dialogue.

It used to be that each faith had its own enclave,” Ghazi said, “but living in isolation is not possible in this age of technology. All of us need to learn to live together. We can’t assume that other people don’t exist, and we need not only to live together but also to accept each other.”

Sayed Daoud, associate professor of pharmaceutical science at WSU, introduced Ma’en AlMaqableh to discuss the importance of fasting during Ramadan.  His wife, Raja AlKhalili, is working on a doctoral degree in English literature at WSU.

Fasting from dawn to sunset teaches people about the suffering of the poor,” he said. “It is also a way to express spiritual devotion, cleanse body and mind, and show kinship with fellow believers.”

Brad Vonhof of Pullman, a member of the Bahá’í faith, shared historical background about The Báb, its founder-prophet, born in October, 1819.

As Christ had innate knowledge and conversed with Jewish leaders while a child, The Báb had innate knowledge he shared with the leaders of Islam,” Brad explained. “Also like Jesus, he was martyred at a young age.”

Erica Austin, a professor of communications at WSU, said Rosh Hashana is the Jewish New Year and the beginning of a 10-day period of introspection that ends with Yom Kippur, the day of atonement. Observant Jews who are able fast for 24 hours on Yom Kippur.

It’s a time to think about priorities, how to be a better person, and how to make the world a better place,” Erica said.  She ended her remarks by blowing a ram’s horn called a shofar, the traditional ending to Yom Kippur.

Father Steve Werner from St. Thomas More Catholic Newman Center in Pullman said that unlike the other holy days honored at the potluck, All Saints Day and All Souls Day are minor and not celebrated by all Christians.

“These are days to remember those who have died and days of hope in what God has planned for us,” he said.

Each speaker expressed the desire that members of all faiths live in harmony.

For information, call 332-2611.

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