Pleasanton Weekly

Arts & Entertainment - December 27, 2013

Interfaith Interconnect: A melting pot of religious diversity

Group hosts multi-religion/cultural events each year

by Katie Lyness

The Tri-Valley is home to many different faiths and denominations, making it a melting pot of religious and cultural traditions. While this type of diversity is embraced by many, it also can be the source of friction and discord between and among the different religions, primarily due to a mutual lack of understanding of one another's customs, traditions and beliefs.

Interfaith Interconnect of the Tri-Valley is an organization made up of clergy and community members from Alameda and Contra Costa counties that encourages people of different faiths to come together in order to learn and understand one another. It also helps everyone realize that regardless of their religious differences, most people share many of the same goals, values and concerns and are much more similar than they are different.

Run by members of many different faiths, Interfaith Interconnect of the Tri-Valley hosts numerous multi-religion/multi-cultural events each year that celebrate local diversity and aim to teach members of the community about the various faiths practiced by local people. Its hope is to foster a peaceful coexistence and an understanding and appreciation of others' religious beliefs and practices in a climate of tolerance and inclusion.

The mission of the Interfaith Interconnect organization is, "To enrich, inform and educate ourselves and others about the great diversity of faiths and cultures in our valley."

In 2011, Interfaith Interconnect organized and held "Three Weddings and a Reception", where the group presented three mock weddings involving real people of various faiths. One was a traditional Jewish wedding, another a traditional Christian wedding and the third was a Muslim wedding ceremony. Each of these mock weddings was intended to educate the attendees about the various traditions of different religions.

Later, in 2012, the organization hosted "Sharing our Music: An Interfaith Concert." This widely attended event brought together Baha'i, Catholic, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Protestant and Unitarian congregations to share in a celebration of cultural and spiritual music.

Recently, in late September, on World Peace Day, Interfaith Interconnect of the Tri-Valley hosted its annual picnic at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) in Livermore. It was a festive, multi-faith, peace-promoting evening of learning, mutual respect, acceptance and inclusion.

The indoor picnic, which was held in the church gymnasium due to inclement weather, engaged its guests with a multi-cultural potluck spread that each guest contributed to, and an interactive introductory activity that enabled the guests to learn the basic principles of the different religions present. There were also activities for children, in order to engage them in the event and to help them understand at a young age that differences in religious beliefs and customs do not have to, and should not, create a divide between people, and that everyone in the world is capable of living in harmony.

In attendance at this spirited event were Catholics, Mormons, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Baha'is, Unitarian Universalists and even one Franciscan friar.

Additionally, on Oct. 16, Interfaith Interconnect hosted an Eid Ul Adha celebration at the Alameda County Fairgrounds. Eid Ul Adha, also known as "festival of the sacrifice," is a Muslim holiday in honor of the willingness of the prophet Abraham to sacrifice his first-born son, Ishmael, as an act of submission to God's command. Ultimately, God provided Abraham with a lamb to sacrifice instead of Abraham's son. A member of Interfaith Interconnect described the holiday to the other members and their guests, as being "the second most important holiday on the Muslim calendar."

Last month, Interfaith Interconnect hosted an Interfaith Thanksgiving Service at the Asbury Methodist Church in Livermore. Guests at this event were invited to join in a moment of shared gratitude with community members of all denominations. The goal of the service was to explore how gratitude is expressed in different faiths and how gratitude can transform individuals and benefit the community at large."

Interfaith Interconnect also hosts monthly "religion chats." These monthly chats take place in a different house of worship each month in order to afford members and their guests the opportunity to see and get a feeling for the places where people of other religions convene and pray and conduct their religious and social events.

A frequent speaker is Ruth Gasten, who is Jewish and a member of Congregation Beth Emek on Nevada Street in Pleasanton. In 1939, during the Holocaust, when she was 6 years old, she escaped with her mother and father from Nazi Germany. The family immigrated to Chicago, where she grew up and adjusted to life in the U.S. She eventually settled in California and has lived in Livermore since 1962.

Over time, the different houses of worship become familiar to each member. Eventually the members become comfortable in all of the different venues, and are able to engage there in an open, informal and meaningful dialogue every month that promotes understanding, acceptance, inclusion, tolerance and peaceful coexistence.

Additional information about Interfaith Interconnect of the Tri-Valley can be found on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/InterfaithInterconnect/

Comments

Posted by Jim, a resident of Avignon
on Dec 30, 2013 at 4:03 am

Wow. That is so great. When and where is the next "Religion Chat"? I'd really like to go to it.


Posted by eric liddell, a resident of another community
on Dec 30, 2013 at 9:27 am

This is just what the new Pope calls-for, too: focus on the things we can agree on. He also would like that combined energy to be devoted to doing good in the world. Write-up stops short of that next step.

Katie: Is there any intention to deploy those common connections in service to the community, in a coordinated way? Hope so!


Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore
on Dec 30, 2013 at 2:46 pm

(Post removed by Pleasanton Weekly Online staff as irrelevant to this thread.)


Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore
on Dec 31, 2013 at 10:53 am

Lots of clergy focus on "sin". Is it possible to come up with a reasonable definition together of SIN?

What exactly is a sin? Hopefully, a united discussion might provide clarification.


Posted by Non-religious Ralph, a resident of Del Prado
on Dec 31, 2013 at 11:37 am

Why do some of you find it necessary to mock anyone who has beliefs or opinions that are different from your own? No doubt you are "tolerant" liberals.


Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore
on Dec 31, 2013 at 12:11 pm

Mock - what do you mean? Please explain.

What is a "tolerant" liberal? Please explain.

It's good to ask questions.

What exactly is "necessary".

Please don't assume that everybody understands you.


Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore
on Dec 31, 2013 at 1:46 pm

If a person doesn't ask questions, how can anybody understand Torah?


Posted by eric liddell, a resident of another community
on Jan 3, 2014 at 7:12 am

Ralph: I understand your objection to mockers, but what evidence indicates anything about political persuasion? Looks like you're just taking a gratuitous swipe at liberals. In my experience, true liberals appreciate diversity of thought.

Katie: my question is serious. Will Interfaith Interconnect be a player in social action for good? Seems like a great opportunity.


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