“At the core of all the faith systems and traditions is the recognition that we are all in this together and that we need to love and support one another to live in harmony and peace in an environmentally sustainable world,” said Dr. Suresh Reddy, past President of American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, and current Town Trustee Member of Oak Brook in Illinois. Quoting the United Nations, the Hyderabad-born physician and community leader said, “Our world continues to be beset by conflict and intolerance with an increasing number of violent spots in a hostile and unwelcoming world around us. The need for spiritual guidance has never been greater.”
Recognizing the imperative need for dialogue and appreciation among different faiths and religions to enhance mutual understanding, harmony and cooperation among people, an Interfaith Iftar was hosted by Dr. Suresh Reddy, Dr. Anuja Gupta, and Shri Ashfaq Hussain Syed, under the auspices of Verandah Community Outreach on April 25th in Hanover Park, near Chicago, in Illinois. Dr. Suresh Reddy, born and grew up in from Hyderabad, India, a city of many religions, shared his own experiences of Iftar celebrations while growing up in Hyderabad.
Dozens of community leaders and friends of South Asian Origin came together with the hope of fostering unity amongst the people of diverse communities and to help foster fellowship and oneness, said Ashfaq Syed, while underlining the importance of unity and one community & humanity. “The purpose was to celebrate Iftar together and reflect on how we can unifying and support our community to heal after this long and difficult pandemic. Our hope is to continue these thoughtful conversations throughout the year to build bridges that are long lasting.”
Dr. Anuja Gupta welcomed the guests and shared her experience of Ramadan back in Mumbai, India. “It is imperative that we double our efforts to spread the message of good neighborliness based on our common humanity, a message shared by all faith traditions,” she said.
Iftar is the fast-breaking meal observed each evening at sundown during the holy month of Ramadan. The Interfaith Iftar Dinner is an opportunity for the community to join our Muslim friends for an evening meal as they break their Ramadan fast, added Ashfaq Syed. Ramadan is a time of revelation and a time of disruption, he said, in which Muslims draw near to God by breaking away from the distractions of the world.
The participants had Iftar, prayer and enjoyed the dinner together, a traditional meal, along with presentations by community peacemakers.
Swami Ishatmanada, Vivekananda Vedanta Society of Chicago, community leaders from Palatine Gurudwara, Pastor Larry Bullock and Azam Nizamuddin spoke about the need for fostering unity, harmony and understanding each other’s culture and faith.
“We fast from all the things that are getting in our way,” they said. “We fast from our own sense of egocentric centrality in the universe. We fast from the habits of mind and habits of being that get in our way — or in other people’s way — in terms of the spiritual life.”
They stressed the importance of interfaith cooperation and compassion and shared about their work in supporting peoples of all faiths around the world. We need to be grounded in our own faith. To listen to them and be compassionate. “We need to have self-care and keep our spirits high, have a positive attitude and we can overcome violence and hatred in the name of religion,” they underscored.