Teatime for Peace at St. Malachi Parish
On Wednesday, July 12th, we attended a "Teatime for Peace" event at St. Malachi Parish Hall at West 25th Street and Detroit Avenue.
We had spoken with the coordinators of the event a day or so earlier and were told that a large crowd was expected but fortunately there were people from the "Metanoia Project" there to direct traffic and we found a space in no time. When we entered the Parish Hall, we were glad to find at least 150 people in attendance.
As we have written before, "Teatime for Peace" came about as the result of a collaboration between West Shore Unitarian Universalist Church and the Council on American-Islamic Relations due to the heated rhetoric during the 2016 U.S. Presidential election regarding our Muslim Community. As the brochure we received indicated, "the intention was to bring the Muslim community together with the wider community as a show of support and solidarity."
The format was/is for a few people of different faiths to sit down together at a table, have tea and cookies, and share facts about themselves and their beliefs. Inevitably, the participants find that they have more in common than they do not.
Accordingly, the vision for "Teatime for Peace" is "to create Peace by building the Beloved Community through getting to know each other better, growing out of our unconscious biases about who the "other" is and by both accepting our differences and recognizing our shared humanity and aspirations."
This was our fourth time attending a "Teatime for Peace" gathering and on this occasion, we shared a table with a traditional Catholic, two Muslims, a Unitarian Universalist, an "independent Catholic", an Episcopalian, and a Zen Buddhist. We visited and took turns answering such questions (assigned to each table) as "When did your family immigrate to the United States and under what circumstances?"; "Can you identify three values that are important to you from your faith tradition or life philosophy?"; and "What were your first experiences with sacred texts?"
Along the way, we were also treated to a song of welcome from Mr. Steve Richey, a lovely poem by Ms. Fatima Shendy calling for unity, and were addressed by two people who were instrumental in launching "Teatime for Peace" who were our friends, Ms. April Stoltz, who talked about the history of the program and let us know that the event that evening was the eighth time that it was conducted, and Mr. Isam Zaiem who spoke about what it is like being a Muslim in the U.S. today during these troubled times. He was particularly concerned about the anti-Sharia movement and attempts to tie all Muslims to terrorists. He thus made the apt comparison that Isis is to Islam what the Ku Klux Klan is to Christianity.
Rev. Anthony J. Schuerger, who we know from the "First Friday Club of Cleveland" gave both the opening interfaith prayer and the closing reflections in which he recalled what Bishop Nelson Perez recently said about Pope Francis' vision for the church which is that "he wants a church that is proactive; a church that is involved in the life of people; a church that accompanies; a church that is fruitful; a church that is joyful."
Rev. Schuerger wisely observed that all of us had experienced those five things in the course of our "Teatime for Peace" experience and that we are now being called upon to journey pro-actively together.
Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC