Muslims and Christians will gather to eat and break down barriers during eight meals planned for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
For the next month, the Minnesota Council of Churches and Twin Cities-area mosques have planned community meals at Iftar, the sunset feast when Muslims break their Ramadan fast. It's part of the Taking Heart program, which aims started to bring faith communities together.
Ramadan calls for Muslims to pray and fast from sunrise to sunset during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar.
Taking Heart was the idea of Heshem Hussein, a former president of the American Muslim Society of Minnesota who died in 2008, and it has been in existence for more than five years at the Minnesota Council of Churches. Mosques and churches host the events, which are free to the public, in an attempt to bring neighbors of different faiths together for food and conversation.
"I think it's been really well received," said Gail Anderson, director of unity and relationships at the Minnesota Council of Churches. "People can be uncomfortable, but once they start talking...people's hearts are changed, their comfort is increased."
The Council of Churches was established in 1948 and now represents 24 members from Protestant, Orthodox and historically black denominations.
Already working with Muslim communities, the Council of Churches schedules a meal every six weeks throughout the year, but Ramadan presents a unique opportunity.
"It is an ideal time to expand our Taking Heart program so that people can go and visit the mosque or Muslim community center in their area," Anderson said.
The Masjid Al-Rahman Muslim Community Center in Bloomington has taken part for more than four years and works with Anderson to develop other interfaith outreach programs, said Misba Rehman, director of public relations and outreach at Masjid Al-Rahman.
"We wanted to make sure that there is a forum out there for the neighbors to come together and have a dialogue," Rehman said. "If we can accomplish that, I think we have done our job."
Rehman noted the added significance of this year's meals because of the approaching 10-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Last month, the Muslim Community Center brought together members of the major faith communities to remember 9/11 and they are working to form an interfaith group that will visit the Minnesota State Capitol on 9/11.
The Community Center's Taking Heart dinner is scheduled for 7 p.m. or sundown Aug. 19.
Sameer Parmar, outreach coordinator at the Ja'afari Islamic Center in Brooklyn Park, also sees a need for the dinners because "the purpose of Ramadan is to make one a better human being and a better member of the community," he said.
This will be the first year Ja'afari Islamic Center has collaborated with the Taking Heart program, but they have been holding Iftar gatherings for many years and plan to have five other interfaith meals during the month, Parmar said.
Their Taking Heart get-together is scheduled for 8:15 p.m. Saturday.
"The objective of Taking Heart is that neighbors get to know neighbors," Anderson concluded. "It's not an interfaith dialogue sort of thing. We meet each other as neighbors and just get to know each other."
source : http://abna.ir/