Members of a Turkish American interfaith support group held their second annual Congressional Ramadan Iftar dinner earlier this week (Wednesday, 19 September) in Washington, D.C. U.S. lawmakers, Muslim, Christian and Jewish leaders and other prominent guests attended the event sponsored by the Rumi Forum. They listened to several speakers who emphasize the importance of interfaith and cultural dialogue for global peace. VOA's Mohamed Elshinnawi has more
Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, the secretary general of the Organization of Islamic Conference, made the keynote speech at the dinner at the U.S. Congress and stressed the need to energize interfaith dialogue. "What we really need is to have a more comprehensive framework, which I call historic reconciliation between Islam and Christianity, Islam and the West."
Ihsanoglu called upon representatives of all faiths to have an agenda for their interfaith dialogue to transform misconceptions to mutual respect.
The first Muslim U.S. Congressman, Democrat Keith Ellison of Minnesota, agreed. He said the cultural diversity in the United States should encourage more interfaith dialogue. "All people of all colors, all cultures and all faiths need to come together to talk about points of difference so we can discover how we are unified."
The primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America shared with the multi-faith crowd his vision of mutual respect as a basis for a successful interfaith dialogue. Archbishop Demetrios said, "If it is genuine, honest and proper, it will offer the real data. Many misunderstandings have to do with lack of knowledge. You fight against something you do not know, if you know you might change your opinion and stop fighting and become friends."
Rabbi Joshua Haberman emphasized how inter-religious dialogue could help spread love and discourage stereotyping. Haberman is chairman of the Foundation for Jewish Studies in suburban Washington. "We have to learn and know each other and we should not only take our lessons from headlines about scandal and hate and conflict that media overemphasizes, the dark side of human nature. We have to understand that there are loving people, helping people, helping one another even across lines of faith."
The interfaith Iftar concluded with an artistic flavor to reflect the unity of the human souls through a traditional Sufi music performance.