Interfaith Meeting in Columbus, Ohio

By Sohaib Awan.

A lot of effort was done by spending hours and hours during the days and nights to invite and find the speakers of different religions and to invite the friends from different organizations from all walks of life since the start to organize this event a week before the Ramadan started.

The total guests were 28 who attended the event. They all vent very happy and enjoyed the hospitality and wished us to organize more events like this.
They were offered a copy of the life of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him, as a gift.

On Saturday, July 27 at Masjid Bait-un-Nasir, Ahamdiyya community in Columbus, Ohio, hosted an interfaith symposium along with the breaking of the fast, known as Iftar. The symposium began after Asr prayers led by Maulana Irshad Malhi Sahib. All the guests were welcomed by Brother Naseer Waseem, the moderator for the evening. All the speakers were introduced and seated at the stage.

Surah al-Baqarah, verses 184-187 were recited in Arabic with the English translation by Sohaib Awan. The verses included the commandments of fasting, the essence of the month of Ramadhan, and the promise of Allah to answer “the prayer of the supplicant when he supplicates.”

The first speaker was Seth Josephson who is a student of religion and culture at the Ohio State University and is a second generation Buddhist. He began by briefly sharing the life of Hadhrat Buddha (as) and his journey from being a prince to a religious teacher and towards enlightenment. He explained the extreme fasting that Hadhrat Buddha (as) engaged in and then shared how monks in modern day Bhuddism part take of only one meal a day which is prepared for them by their family members.

The second speaker was Morris Schottenstien who is a an adjunct instructor at Franklin University in Columbus, Ohio. He shared the Jewish traditions of fasting. He explained how he had fasted three days straight with Christians and had participated in the month of Ramadhan with Arab friends. He stressed the similarities in the eating practices and fasting between Jews and Muslims and how the Holy Prophet (saw) honored Judaism and Christianity. He explained how there are several fasts but there are two obligatory fasts one of which is Yom Kippur – Day of Atonement. Another optional fast included one to remember the Holocaust. He went on to describe his experience of Yom Kippur as he grew up.

Ralph Kownacki and Rachel Dorothy from the Worthington Friday morning prayer group did a joint speech about the Catholic traditions of fasting. Ralph began his speech by mentioning the various instances in which fasting has been used as a political move such as Mahatma Ghandi and soldiers from the IRA had done. He then read a passage from the Book of Isaiah that described the benefits of fasting such as increased sympathy for those that do not have food regularly.  He explained that Catholics fast before lent and talked about how Hadhrat Jesus (as) fasted for forty days. Rachel explained the transubstantiation and the taking of communion where people fast before Catholics take what they believe to be the blood and body of Hadhrat Jesus (as). Ralph then went on to explain the practices of Lent and the significance of fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday and the abstinence from meat.

Reverand Joseph Schrattenecker from the Unification Church read a passage from Reverend Moon’s speech that showed how the world can move closer to a world of peace. The passage also explained the need for depriving oneself from worldly pleasures to get closer to God. He explained the significance of fasting in the Unification Church tradition which involves a seven day fast that allows only water to be consumed which is done before couples get married. He explained how controlling one’s own desires  is important before one can try to establish world peace. He also stressed the importance of interfaith symposiums in the light of the Ahamdiyya Muslim Community’s motto of “Love for all, Hatred for none.”

Bashir Asad, Mo’tamid of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Columbus, began with introducing himself and how his experiences with fasting as he grew up as a Jew. He then explained how he and his family converted to Islam as he was a young man and then explained his experiences with trying to fast as a young Muslim. He then went on to explain the verses of the Quran that were recited in the beginning of the session. He explained the benefits of fasting and the blessings that are associated with the month of Ramadhan. He concluded by thanking all the presenters that were present.

Maulana Irshad Malhi Sahib answered some questions about the month of Ramadhan and the Islamic injunctions on fasting. Then, all the Jama’at members broke their fasts and Malhi Sahib led us in Maghrib prayer. The guests were led to the adjacent building where we ate Iftar with them that had been cooked on masjid grounds by Secretary Ziafat Sahib, Mohammed Ashraf and his team. After Iftar, the guests were escorted to their cars.

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