Last Thursday, I attended the annual Dialogue and Friendship Dinner sponsored by the Pacifica Institute. There were people from many different religious communities ranging from Muslims and Christians to Unitarians and Wiccans. We enjoyed a presentation about the Pacifica Institute and its activities, a talk by Prof. Juan Campo of the Religious Studies Department at University of California, Santa Barbara, and even a workshop on how to brew a cup of Turkish coffee!
But the best part of the evening, as it is every year, was the conversation around the tables. Meeting again with old friends and getting to know new ones, we discovered in the exchange of ideas and perspectives how to build interfaith community.
People are drawn into interfaith relationships in a number of ways. There are those who prefer to meet “on the picket line,” making common cause with others to address needs and issues in the public arena. There are those who prefer to meet in the library, learning about one another and our traditions and coming to appreciate the similarities and understand the differences. And there are those who prefer to meet in the prayer hall, joining others in worship, prayer, and devotion, finding commonality in seeking the transcendent.
But, as we were reminded last week, we all like to meet around the table! In sharing good food and good conversation, we are able to bring together our hands, our heads, and our hearts. We are grateful to the Pacifica Institute for making these events possible.
The Pacifica Institute was founded in 2003 by a group of young, primarily Turkish, students and professionals as the Global Cultural Connection. Inspired by Fethulla Gulen, a Turkish Muslim teacher, the Pacifica Institute sponsors programs to promote understanding and acceptance of diversity. Along with the annual Friendship Dinner, they sponsor Luncheon Forums, Panel Discussions, and guided trips to Turkey for local religious leaders.