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Coming as Strangers, Leaving as Friends

The 2018 Ramadan season began on May 15th. That evening, Muslims gathered around the country and the world to celebrate the first Iftar dinner of the year. This tradition is one that Muslims celebrate yearly following the lunar calendar as an important part of the holy month of Ramadan. This month is marked by fasting from food, drink, and certain habits during daylight hours. At night, Muslims gather with their friends and family to break their fast and share a special meal called Iftar. These are times of coming together and community building.

This year, for the fourth time, some Muslim families in Southern California prepared Iftar dinners not only for themselves and their families but for (evangelical) Christians and their
families, as well. These Muslim and Christian families, who are involved with 2 Faiths, 1 Friendship, are taking bold steps towards peacebuilding between their communities. They are gathering around each other’s tables and learning about each other’s faith traditions as respectful and curious friends.

Each year new hosts sign up to try this out and new guests decide to take this step. It’s also a great opportunity for many that have hosted since the initiative started in 2015 to re-connect
with old friends. Eighteen dinners involving 240 Muslims and Christians building new and deeper connections took place this year.

Christian participants in these Iftar dinners reflected on the experience with new respect for their Muslim brothers and sisters. Christians observed that “Ramadan is something people really
look forward to and enjoy, instead of viewing as a chore” and “understanding other faiths and building bridges honors God.”

One Christian guest in a Muslim home for Iftar commented that,

Understanding people’s experiences of
celebration, family, and following God
can deeply enrich our own.

This Christian man came into contact with a deep and genuine faith that was different from his own. Instead of being threatened by this, he took the opportunity to allow his own faith in God to be enriched and deepened. This is the power of real friendship. This is the power of peacebuilding.

Muslims who hosted these Iftars said that they were glad to have a chance to explain their traditions and share their lives with Christian guests. They felt that having people gathered around a dinner table promoted constructive dialog and made a place for real friendship. One
host said that this dinner is important to her because, “it brings awareness of different traditions in people’s lives, and therefore humanizes individuals.” Another host summed up the evening by saying,

Praise be to God for making everything so awesome. Tonight really made me smile. Such a great group and effort. Seeing everyone connect and enjoy company. Coming as strangers leaving as friends

Thank you to all of our volunteer organizers and Muslim hosts for this year’s Iftar dinners!