Friday, June 24th, 8:30-9:30 pm, in Lantana, FL
Around 60 people met at Masjid Al Tawad of Florida for an interfaith Iftar dinner hosted by Imam Dr. Zaher Badaraany. Everyone came together to break the fast with dates and water and to join in the prayers. Afterwards, everyone gathered for a delicious meal as presenters spoke about fasting, Islamophobia, and the importance of interfaith work.
Presentations were made by Imam Dr. Zaher Badaraany (Masjid Al Tawad), Atiquer Rahman (member of Masjid Al Tawad), Ted Brownstein (Baha’i/Lake Worth Interfaith Association), Rev. Tony Cato (New Hope Missionary Baptist Church), Norman Hemming (US Department of Justice), SheikhGhassan Manasra (The Abrahamic Reunion), Rev Renwick Bell (Christian), Lisa Stewart (Quaker), Rabbi Barry Silver (L’Dor V’Dor), and Maya Malay (Buddhist).
Atiquer Rahman welcomed everyone to the dinner on behalf of Al Tawad, inviting everyone “to meet us, to work together, to build a bridge of love and communication with each other”.
Ted Brownstein reminded everyone of the true purpose of interfaith dialogue, to eliminate prejudice and “treat each other as individuals made in the image of God and really respect one another”. He concluded with words from the Baha’i writing: “So powerful is the light of unity that it can illuminate the whole world”.
Rev. Tony Cato spoke of the prejudice he has faced in his own life as a man of color. He encouraged members of the Muslim community to “Speak out… so that people will know who you are, what you stand for”.
Norman Hemming commended the Muslim community on their religion of peace and forgiveness, saying “Thank you for teaching us how to be good Americans”.
Sheikh Ghassan Manasra talked about the importance of connection between people, since that is the way to connect with God. “The connection between us and between God, it’s not through my work. No, it’s through all of you.”
Reverend Renwick Bell stressed the importance of actively striving for peace and justice, concluding that “God dreams of humanity. We cannot let God dream alone”.
Lisa Stewart talked about how labels divide us and what reconciliation between religious communities looks like, saying “We stop judging each other by our own rules of the game. We accept the fact that there are different games being played, according to different rules.”
Ted Brownstein briefly spoke again on behalf of the Jewish community, reminding everyone that the oneness of God is something all Abrahamic religions share.
Maya Malay spoke about fasting in the Buddhist tradition, and how it teaches self-control and self-discipline. She offered a prayer for peace by Bhante, a Cambodian monk, asking the Lord to “transform this world into love and compassion”. She concluded with a blessing, saying “in any challenge or situation, may love be the greater result”.
Imam Dr. Zaher Badaraany spoke next, to thank everyone for coming and to stress the importance of events like this in order to “raise our community and our families on love, not hate. On unity, not the separations”. He ended by calling on everyone to “continue in this way, for the way of love is the best way to live together”.
Rabbi Barry Silver told the story of Jacob and Esau from the Torah, comparing it to the today, saying that “when Jews and Muslims come together, and brothers are reconciled, the face of God appears”. His closing words were a call to everyone: “Let religion be used for its true purpose, to bring us together”.`
After everyone had spoken, Masjid Al Tawad awarded their first annual Accolade of Peace and Love to Ted Brownstein for his interfaith work in the community. They will present the award every year during the holy month of Ramadan.
Over the course of the evening, we learned that there are many meanings for the word “tawad”: “highest love”, “forgiveness”, and “great harmony”. All of these meanings were expressed during the evening, especially by the community of Masjid Al Tawad, who welcomed us with a banner of their logo, adapted to include all of the major world religions together. We are truly very thankful to the masjid, and Imam Dr. Zaher Badaraany, for hosting such a beautiful event full of love, hope, and a sense of community that lasted long after everyone had gone home.