Upcoming community fast-breaking dinners:
- August 1 at the Carnegie Building.
- August 2 at Plymouth Congregational Church.
- August 6 at Unity Church of Lawrence
Dinners run from 7:45 to 9:15 p.m. and are free and open to the public.
Eyyup Esen is a long way from his family back in Turkey, which is especially hard now during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan when followers of Islam fast from sunrise to sunset. The Kansas University doctoral candidate is used to breaking the fast each night of Ramadan with a large Turkish dinner with fellow Muslims, family and friends back home.
But Esen found a new way to celebrate Ramadan here in America by sharing the experience with Christian friends and neighbors in Lawrence at six community fast-breaking dinners, sponsored by members of the Institute of Intercultural and Interfaith Dialog of the Southwest.
About 30 people came to the event last night at First United Methodist Church to the learn about Ramadan and eat a traditional Turkish dinner just after sunset yesterday. An unusual situation, maybe, for Muslims and Christians to come together at a church, but Esen says it was just the type of experience the institute encourages and the world needs.
“We are all essentially human beings, when we come together, we become aware that we are all really equal,” Esen said. “Our goal is to bring people of all races, genders and religions together to show people we have a lot of commonalities. We need to make peace allies, not fear allies.”
Just a handful of Muslim women prepared the meal last night of Turkish chicken, salad, potatoes, rice and “Semolina,” a sweet, spongy yellow cake for desert. The dinners, which are free and open to the public, are paid for entirely by the few Turkish families, as well. But Esen says they are happy to help provide the fast-breaking dinners to the public because of the nature of the holy month.
“At Ramadan especially, people become more cordial and charitable. Every guest is like a blessing,” Esen said. “We have a saying that goes, ‘guests bring 10 blessings with them, when they eat they take one, but when they go, leave nine with you.’”
Shannah McAleer, director of Children’s Ministries at First United Methodist Church, got involved with the Institute of Intercultural Interfaith Dialog when she met Esen two years ago. She says that participating events like the fast-breaking dinners creates an opportunity for people of all religions to come together to find a common ground.
“There is not much more important in this world that coming together to find peace,” McAleer said. “And I believe as Ghandi did, that we will not find true peace until all religions can get along side-by-side.”