ISOC, COPAA, AMWEC Welcome Olive Tree Initiative at Interfaith Iftar
By Sara Ali
On Wednesday, August 8th, the Islamic Society of Orange County opened its doors and welcomed students, faculty, and mainstream community members of the Olive Tree Initiative (OTI), founded by a group of UCI students, faculty, and community members. The mission of the Olive Tree Initiative is to promote conflict analysis and resolution through experiential education by providing students and community with the education, training and experiences needed to better negotiate and solve conflicts. The OTI students and faculty had just returned from a trip to Israel, Jordan and Palestine. The students shared their heartwarming experiences of their travel to the conflict zone.
ISOC’s Director, Dr. Muzammil Siddiqui, welcomed the OTI members and the Interfaith community and gave them a briefing on why Muslims fast. He also told the audience about the ISOC and how it has developed into the “mothership” of SoCal mosques. Next, COPAA President, Adnan Khan, remembering the victims of the Oak Creek Sikh Temple shooting, asked the audience to observe a moment of silence. He also highlighted the importance of interfaith work and enlightened the guests on important partnerships that COPAA had been nurturing for more than a decade with faith-based communities and law enforcement agencies.
The emcee, Nobia Kibriya of American Muslim Women’s Empowerment Council (AMWEC), introduced her colleague, Tina Khan, board of director AMWEC, who informed the audience about the history of Interfaith, how it was practiced by the Prophet of Islam and how it has been highly encouraged in Islam.
Professor Daniel Wehrenfennig, the UCI founder professor and executive director of the OTI program, thanked the hosts ISOC, COPAA, and AMWEC for opening up the mosques for the students and community members. “Three of my students are thrilled to be at a mosque because this is the very first time they have been inside a mosque,” remarked Dr. Wehrenfennig. “While I was in Jerusalem, Muslims alongside Jews celebrated iftar and at that beautiful moment, I didn’t know of any conflict that could exist between the peoples of the Abrahamic faiths,” he said.
Two students, a Muslim and a Catholic, recalled their experiences and both stated that once you experience the conflict zone, you truly see that the essential quality of humanity that binds us together. Other speakers who shared their warm sentiments were Mani Singh from the Sikh community; Paul Bokota, an Irvine school board candidate; Jay Chen, a candidate for Congress; and Mike Maxenti from Rebellious Truths.
In the audience were seated many friends from the Christian and Jewish community who were overwhelmed by the openness and welcome given to them by their Muslim hosts. All the guests were given beautiful gift bags from COPAA and AMWEC to remind them of their interfaith journey. To learn more about the Olive Tree Initiative, visit www.olivetreeinitiative.org