Thursday, July 9, 2015

Reflection: Family Iftar Dinner with Eruyan Family

On the 21st day of Ramadan Sunday January 5th, Cem and Ilknur Eruyan hosted an interfaith Iftar dinner. Pacifica Institute, invited individuals from all religious groups to join them at the dinner table to break the fast. The Iftar meal is served once the sunsets. This is considered the holiest time.

Ramadan is a social time for Muslims and is celebrated with elaborate meals. ‘Meal time’ was at sunset, around 8:02 that night. The first dish was lentil soup and water, followed by multiple dishes of baklava, salad, peppers with rice, and dates. After, the main dish of beef and mashed potatoes was served.

The purpose of fasting for Muslims is to help focus one’s thoughts to God during the day. Once food is served at the end of the day, one is able to meditate upon food and appreciate it more.

When the meal was finished Mr. Eruyan left the diner table to pray. He performed a series of chants to himself while bowing and standing. Mrs. Eruyan went to prepare the desert and Turkish tea.

The Eruyan’s house was decorated with traditional Islamic art.  Mr. Eruyan explained that one piece of art represented the coexistence of Muslims, Jews, and Catholics.  The picture depicted all three religions praying in their own religious buildings. This gave way to conversations about religion.

The guests compared religions to search for similarities. It was noted that Muslims and Catholics held many similar values and stories. For example, the story of Johan and the Whale are similar, as well as the belief in angels and the afterlife.

Guests shared their experience with intercultural interactions. One guests shared her experience in India. She recalled her friends warning her that there was excessive poverty to enjoy the country. However, she said once she reached outside her comfort zone she was able to find the beauty within the country. Ilknur then shared her experience in her children’s elementary school. She shared that some mothers would not talk to her because she wore a headdress. She chuckled the words, “I’m harmless!” She then said, once the mothers got to know her they became friends.

Many form their perceptions of Muslims off of media coverage on extremism. The family expressed that extremist actions are not religious. They emphasized the peaceful teachings of Islam.
“I could not imagine raising my children and teaching them acts of violence from extremism,” Mrs. Eruyan said.  

Pacifica Institute encourages non-Muslims to experience an Iftar dinner during Ramadan in the homes of other Muslims. The dinners are held with hopes to diminish cultural boundaries. Food, drink, and conversation symbolized intercultural tolerance and communication.  

For me, the experience was refreshing. The intentions of the Eruyan family were whole-hearted as they fed strangers at their table. However, we left not as strangers, but as friends.

Emily Quiles

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