By Mary O’KEEFE
On Friday, Aug. 20 about 175 people met at La Cañada Community Center. Everyone greeted each other as they entered the building with a potluck dish. The food was placed on the table and the conversation turned to children, jobs and family life.
Then, as the sun began to set, a little over 100 of those assembled stepped out into the center’s courtyard as a call to prayer was heard. The faithful knelt.
These prayers were offered at the end of the day’s fast during Ramadan, which began on Aug. 11 and ends on Sept. 9.
After praying, everyone joined together to share a meal.
This seamless interaction between those of Islamic faith and those of other faiths is a testament to the work started with the first meeting in December 2006 hosted by the Islamic Congregation of La Cañada Flintridge.
“Welcome to the fourth annual Interfaith Ramadan potluck dinner,” welcomed Levent Akbarut, member of ICLCF.
Ramadan begins in the ninth month in the Islamic lunar calendar. During the month those of Islamic faith fast daily.
“It [teaches and enforces] self control and also it reminds us of how others throughout the world are starving,” said founding congregation member Mohamed Rady.
Also during Ramadan there is an emphasis in reading the Quran every night.
During the dinner Iman Kahn explained what the month of Ramadan meant to her. “If you ask a third grader why they fast they will tell
you it is because we want to feel what the poor people feel [those who are hungry],” she said. “It does teach you self control. When you are finished you feel a sense of accomplishment. This helps you in your life.”
Kahn pointed out that fasting is common in many religions. The season of Lent is similar with its limited fasting and daily prayer.
“Fasting is the ultimate act of the devout,” Khan added.
There were people from all walks of life and all faiths who attended the dinner. Those present were from La Cañada Congregational Church, the Pasadena Presbyterian Church, the Crescenta Valley Methodist Church and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Although the focus was unity, the issues of the world crept into conversations including the much needed attention and help for flood victims in Pakistan. The flooding that occurred over three weeks ago affected about 17 million people. Also the issue of the proposed mosque to be built in New York near Ground Zero.
However, as in the past, though members of the congregation did not ignore the controversial issues, they worked to bring discussion back to common ground of faith and service to community.