Muslims Join Celebration of Abraham in Davis
By Abdus Sattar Ghazali
The 2014 Celebration of Abraham was held at the St. James Catholic Church Fellowship Hall in Davis, CA on January 26.
The 11th Celebration of Abraham brings lay people and clergy from congregations working to promote understanding and compassion among Christians, Jews and Muslims. “Loving Kindness” was the theme of this year's gathering.
The panelists were Rabbi Greg Wolfe of Congregation Bet Haverim, Rev. Jim Kitchens of Cal Aggie Christian House and Samina Sundas, Founding Executive Director of American Muslim Voice.
Helen Roland, a Celebration of Abraham organizer and member of the United Methodist Church, welcomed the guests. She said loving kindness is more than an action; it begins in the heart. In practicing loving kindness, humans express their universal hopes through action. "At the celebration, we grapple the ways we can show more loving kindness, ” she said.
AMV Executive Director, Samina Sundas, said in Islam even a smile at your neighbor or passerby is considered as charity. She said that if we practice our religion truly then this world would become a garden of hope and kindness which we need. She related a story of Prophet Mohammad spotlighting his patience and tolerance. A neighbor tried her best to irritate him by throwing garbage in his way every day. One day, when he walked out of his home there was no garbage. This made the Prophet inquire about the old woman and he came to know that she was sick. The Prophet went to visit her and offered any assistance she might need. The old woman was extremely humbled and at the same time ashamed of her actions in light of the concern that the Prophet showed her. By seeing the example of compassion of the Prophet, she embraced Islam.
As is tradition, this year’s program included music along with intimate discussions among the participants at each table. Questions based on the theme were posed to each table group, with people sharing their experiences and beliefs as they wished. The program concluded with a ritual of washing each other’s hands at each individual table and breaking a loaf of bread together as symbols of respect and connection.
According to Jewish Encyclopedia, for the purpose of actual or ritual purification, ablutions or washings form an important feature of the Jewish religious ceremonial. References to ritual washing are found in the Hebrew Bible, and are elaborated in the Mishnah and Talmud.
Breaking bread is a Judeo-Christian tradition. The term "breaking bread" is mentioned several times in the New Testament. "Breaking bread" means to dine or eat together. It also means to share ones belongings or assets with another person, peacefully. Breaking bread is also interpreted to refer to the rite of the Lord’s Supper. During the Last Supper, described in 1 Corinthians 11:23-39, Jesus took a loaf of bread and broke it and gave it to His disciples, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” The breaking of bread at that first communion table has been re-enacted down through the centuries as a way of remembering that first celebration of both His sacrifice on the cross and the institution of the New Covenant in His blood.
Khalid Saeed, National President of the American Muslim Voice and Meer Nazir of the AMV Sacramento Chapter, offered prayers over Hand Washing and Breaking Bread ceremony. Jewish Prayer was offered by Maya London of Bet Haverim while Noah Papagni of the Davis United Methodist Church offered Christian prayer.
It may be recalled that Khalid Saeed is one of the pioneers of the Celebration of Abraham. Attorney Randy Rosa, the initiator of the Celebration, in his piece "the Celebration of Abraham: Waging relentless peace," hailed Khalid Saeed's help in organizing and publicizing the first Celebration of Abraham held in Lodi, CA. Randy Rosa wrote: The Celebration of Abraham was praised in an editorial published though out Northern California. Written by Khalid Saeed, an influential area Muslim, it best expressed the spirit of the evening:
"It was gratifying to see a Rabbi, an Imam, and a Priest sitting in one room enjoying a meal and talking with one another with warm smiles. It was also wonderful to see lay Christians, Jews, and Muslims getting along and sharing a meal. And I was thinking to myself, 'Yes! Despite all the problems of the world, still there is hope.' "
It seemed obvious that if a Celebration of Abraham could be so successful in a town as conservative as Lodi, it would likely be well received elsewhere. It seemed logical to take the concept of celebrating Abraham "on the road" for a test drive or two. That road would lead through Stockton, Bakersfield, Sacramento, Woodland/Davis, Tulare, Yuba City/Marysville, Chico, and the Monterey Peninsula.