By: Katie Stever, intern at Niagara
“The first rule of interfaith relations is to start where you are.” – Martin Marty
This past Saturday, Niagara partnered with Fourth Presbyterian Church in an evening of friendship and intercultural dialogue. Practitioners of all faiths, ranging from Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, and more, gathered together in Fourth Presbyterian’s Buchanan Chapel for an event that examined the relationship between Jesus in Christianity and Jesus in Islam.
Guests had the privilege of welcoming Martin Marty to the podium as he introduced the evening’s keynote speaker, Dr. Zeki Saritoprak. Saritoprak has held the Nursi Chair in Islamic Studies at John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio for the past 11 years and is an author on over thirty academic articles and encyclopedia entries on Islam. The scholar presented a 25-minute lecture discussing his book Islam’s Jesus, analyzing the similarities and differences between the depictions of Jesus the Prophet in the Qur’an and Jesus the Messiah in the Christian Bible.
Following the lecture, Dr. Saritoprak welcomed questions from the audience. Guests inquired about specific terminology regarding how the texts refer to Jesus, the significance of figs when breaking the fast, and the role Mary, Jesus’ mother, has in each sacred text.
After the lecture portion of the evening concluded, a call to prayer was conducted as a cue for those who were fasting that it was time to break the fast. For our Muslim guests who had been fasting, the moment when dates were offered to everyone was followed by a sigh of relief. Dates, ripe or dried, are traditionally the first things to be eaten once the fast is broken. As a symbol of healing, dates are full of the natural sugars and vitamins needed to boost energy and restore the body with essential nutrients.
Following the breaking of the fast, Fourth Presbyterian’s Anderson Hall transformed into a room of dining and dialogue. Those who registered for the dinner moved downstairs to engage in more interreligious dialogue at tables with friends new and old. A buffet of falafel, pita, hummus, kebab, and other delicious food was provided for guests and prayer rooms were offered to those who wished to pray in a more private setting.
The evening concluded with a feeling of enlightenment, fulfillment, and hope for peace. As Mr. Marty remarked in his introduction, interfaith gatherings provide a space for honest dialogue that reflects upon the current events going on in the world today and what we can do as individuals and communities to try and improve them.
The Niagara Foundation is honored to have partnered with Fourth Presbyterian Church for an evening of community and interfaith dialogue. Niagara’s Ramadan Experience is an opportunity for friends to engage in conversation and learn more about the similarities and differences between faith traditions that may not be the same as our own. We look forward to hosting similar events in the future that work in cultivating a community of understanding.