By Robin GOLDSWORTHY
The second in a series of events co-hosted by the Islamic Congregation of La Cañada Flintridge and the La Cañada Presbyterian Church was held at La Cañada Presbyterian Church on Saturday afternoon. According to organizers, the events are held to build peace and understanding between Christian, Muslim, interfaith and secular communities in the La Cañada area and beyond. On Sunday, a service project was planned followed by a potluck dinner.
The first event, held at the church in March, was promoted as a community forum on religious extremism. Around 250 people attended the forum whose panelists represented different religious perspectives.
“The forum was a smashing success,” said Levent Akbarut of the Islamic Congregation of La Cañada Flintridge who with Megan Katerjian, LCPC Interim Associate Pastor of Outreach, organized the events. “There was a lot of interfaith dialogue. Now our new initiative is to move forward, to have an interfaith activity.”
The project on Saturday involved preparing 250 hygiene kits for those in need. Boxes of products that would be included in each bag were laid out on tables that were set end to end. On either side of the tables were seated volunteers who added products to the bag then passed it down to other volunteers who added more supplies. This continued until every bag was a completed hygiene kit. A volunteer at the end boxed up the kits.
The hygiene kits will be distributed in the Pasadena area during Ramadan as part of Humanitarian Day.
One of the volunteers was Nishat Ahmed. Originally from India, he has lived in La Cañada for 26 years.
“It is important to appreciate and learn about each other,” Ahmed said. “We have the same perspective with a common goal – God.”
He said that in India, there are 300 million Muslims and when he came to America he experienced culture shock. However, he added, he also recognized that America is a land of opportunity where “ordinary people do extraordinary things.”
He started his own business and sits on several non-profit boards.
Sally Spalding came to the service event after attending the interfaith forum in March. She worked in the kitchen helping to prepare the food that would feed the three-dozen volunteers who helped with assembling the hygiene kits.
Before the project began, both Katerjian and Akbarut took a few minutes to share a little about their religions and read from their books of faith. Katerjian noted that both religions desire serving people in need – this was a commonality in the Islamic and Christian faiths. She read a passage from the Book of Isaiah.
Akbarut said that worship, charity and service are pillars of the Islamic faith and read first in Arabic then in English a prayer from the Quran.