A group of about 130 people gathered at Redmond United Methodist Church (RUMC) for dinner on Sunday evening.
But rather than a room full of Christians, as the venue may imply, the dinner was the Interfaith Friendship Iftar Dinner and contained a mix of members of the RUMC as well as members of the Pacifica Institute (PI). The latter is a nonprofit organization with Turkish American Muslims.
Tezcan Inanlar, northwest director of PI in Bellevue, said the point of the dinner was to have an interfaith dialogue that could lead to cross-cultural understanding. The theme of Sunday’s dinner was “Love your neighbor.”
Inanlar said this is the second time they have held an interfaith dinner with RUMC. The first partnership between the institute and church was about a year ago when they hosted a dinner at the Old Redmond Schoolhouse Community Center.
RUMC pastor Lara Bolger said her church was happy to host the Iftar dinner this year and to provide a space for interfaith dialogue and learning from each other over a shared meal. She said the goal of the dinner is to build friendships and create community.
“As a church, we value community partnerships and working together to create a more just, compassionate and peaceful society,” she said. “In order to do that we must be intentional about building relationships, especially with people of different faith traditions with whom we may have little connection in our daily lives.”
The dinner was scheduled about three months prior to the Orlando shootings that occurred on Sunday morning, Inanlar said, and in light of the events, they chose to keep the program for their dinner as planned as the topics of discussion were still relevant. He added that they also realized how important the decision to even hold the dinner in the first place was and how much people needed it.
“Love is a very powerful tool (against hate),” Inanlar said.
Bolger agreed, saying it was especially poignant for the two groups to do something together.
“Together, we acknowledged our grief, shared a time of silence for the victims and talked about love and service inspired by the Islamic teacher and preacher Fethullah Gulen,” she said. “It was a very meaningful night.”
At the dinner, both Inanlar and Bolger spoke, sharing their respective religions’ perspective.
Inanlar said dinner was served at 9:07 p.m., when Muslims were able to break from fasting all day in observing Ramadan. He said they also discussed the importance of fasting with their Christian counterparts.
Attendees also watched “Love is a Verb,” a film about taking action, serving, caring for and helping others in need.
In addition, First District Congresswoman Suzan DelBene attended the event, commending PI for its work in promoting interfaith dialogue and cross-cultural ties. DelBene also presented PI with a certificate of Congressional Record, which included her address to Congress.
“(PI’s) efforts have helped remove barriers, building confidence and trust to create a peaceful society through newfound friendships,” the certificate reads. “Through their vision of promoting social justice through shared networks, Pacifica Institute has provided my district with the opportunity to foster mutual appreciate in a respectful environment.”