More than 500 people joined the community’s Muslim-Americans to break a day of fasting and celebrate the holy month of Ramadan. The Iftar dinner, as it is known, was held at Second Presbyterian Church on Tuesday, June 21, and was sponsored jointly by Interfaith Paths to Peace (IPP) and the Pakistani American Alliance for Compassion and Understanding.
The theme was “Celebrate Diversity! Fear Not.” And so it was as people of all major faiths sat down to eat Middle Eastern cuisine, chatting, some in serious discussion and others simply having a good time.
Rabbi Emeritus Stanley Miles of Temple Shalom, one of the speakers, addressing those assembled before dinner, quoted Psalm 133 to illustrate the essential meaning of last month’s Iftar dinner: “Behold how good and how pleasant it is when people live together united.”
Still, the shock of the killings in Orlando only days earlier hung like a dark cloud over the gathering. Rabbi Miles alluded to it forcefully, “We must react to the obscenity of Islamaphobia. We must build bridges, never walls.”
“The warmth, hospitality and generosity of Islamic Louisville mirrored Jewish Louisville at our best,” the Rabbi said.
Haleh Karimi, IPP’s executive director, explained to the gathering, most of whom were not of the Muslim faith, that Ramadan is the month when its faithful “turn inward to strengthen their spiritual beliefs,” and “reach outwards to other human beings and do acts of charity.”
“In Islam, initiating war, killings or any act of violence is not permissible – unless it is in self-defense – specifically during the month of Ramadan. It breaks our heart when we hear ISIS has urged its followers to attack during Ramadan. The month of Ramadan is all about building the heart.”
Other speakers included Muhammad Babar Cheema, head of the Pakistani group; Mayor Greg Fischer, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz and Tori Murden McClure, president of Spalding University.
Many commented on Facebook and uploaded photos they took during the event.
“Our family had an amazing evening breaking the Ramadan fast with our Muslim brothers and sisters,” said Kim Summers. “Our gathering showed how much greater a force is love over fear.”
“Beautiful evening,” commented Becky Ruby Swansburg, immediate past chair of the Jewish Community Relations Council. “This picture pretty much captures it all,” referring to the photo in this issue of Community of her, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, and Maher Alsaid and his family, recently arrived refugees from Syria.