Muslim Educational Cultural Center of America (MEECA), Williowbrook, Illinois, held its annual Ramadan Community Dinner on August 10, 2011. The dinner was attended by a large number of Muslim, Christian and Jewish community members. Dr. Muhammad Hamadeh, president of MECCA, welcomed the guests, and thanked community members for their help and support for obtaining the zoning license for the MECCA mosque. Prior to the keynote address, Naguib Ahmed, using a multimedia presentation, furnished glimpses of his recent social welfare work in Rwanda as a Peace Corps volunteer.
Rev. Donald Wagner, Professor of interfaith Studies at Eastern Mennonite University, Harrisonburg, VA, was the keynote speaker. Reflecting on the theme of the Ramadan dinner “Exemplifying Faith through Service,” Rev. Wagner said that community service and faith are related. He said that to serve the community he gets motivation from Jesus Christ, following his example of devotion to God, just like Muslims surrender to the will of God. He said that in post-911 period communities were getting closer but then suddenly in just four months we faced new challenges: opposition to construction of Muslim cultural center at Ground Zero, Islamophobia, Pastor Terry Jone’s Qur’an burning episode, and burning of Churches in Bagdad and Alexandria. He said that with the help of other religious organizations, he has created a rapid response network to counter the propaganda and hate crimes committed in the name of religion. He said that Muslim, Christian and Jewish communities have to go beyond initial interactions and need to work actively together. He further said, “We have to go beyond tolerance; we need to learn how to co-exist.” Furthermore, he said that the election season is approaching and he suspects that politicians will practice Islamophobia, so one has to be ready and be active to counter negative politics.
In his concluding remarks, Rev. Wagner said that we need to raise new leaders who can address the challenges of systemic injustices at community, national and international levels. The gap between the rich and the poor is increasing; the Palestinian aspirations for state need to materialize. He also alluded to the Jewish tradition of Takum Olam (healing the world), and said that as the vicegerents of God, we should work to heal the world.
After the keynote speech, Dilara Sayeed, and Dr. Zaher Sahloul, Chairman, CIOGC thanked the community members for their support. Imam of MECCA, Mohammad Rachid, offered the concluding prayers.