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/