Teatime for Peace: Countering the Fear and Hate
On Monday, February 29th, we went to the West Shore Unitarian Universalist Church on Hilliard Blvd. in Rocky River to attend "Teatime for Peace" which involved people of different faiths, with a special emphasis on Islam, pairing off to get to know each other. The format consisted of one partner asking the other partner questions for ten minutes and then the roles reversed. At the end of twenty minutes everyone was instructed to find a new partner and start all over. Among the questions that were given to us to ask were:
- Did your family immigrate to the United States? If so, did they come by force or choice?
- Tell me a story about an experience that your family had with a faith tradition other than your own such as attending a religious function.
- What stereotypes or misconceptions have you picked up from the media or other sources about different faith traditions including your own?
- Can you identify three values that are important to you and that are connected to your faith tradition?
- How does your religion reflect the culture you are from or does it?
- Share with me a story of your first experience with the sacred texts.
We got to visit with and get to know a school teacher who had immigrated to the United States from Turkey and a doctor who immigrated here from Nigeria years ago when he was still a medical student. When we heard that the teacher taught in the Lorain schools we were a bit taken back because just a couple of hours earlier we signed up to attend a "State of the Schools" speech given by the Lorain County school superintendent in a couple of weeks. This illustrated to us how we all can be connected in ways that we do not know about.
What amazed us was that approximately 100 people turned out to take part in this exercise which was sponsored by quite a few organizations as well as West Shore and some of them were the Council of Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Niagara Foundation, Women Speak Out for Peace and Justice, and Coalition for a Better Life/Peace in the Hood.
As was said by our friend Mr. M. Isam Zaiem, one of the coordinators, the facilitators hadn't planned on so many people attending but the large number of attendees was "a great problem to have."
Among the different faiths represented here were Unitarian Universalists, Jews, Christians, Catholics, and Muslims who understandably, considering the current political climate, were the focal point of the night. In fact the flyer for the event read, "counter the fear and hate with honest connection and conversation. Come to Teatime for Peace where the wider community of Cleveland will meet with our Muslim sisters and brothers to share tea, treats, and hear each other's stories. We can build the beloved community."
Ms. Hala Sanyurah, from the Islamic Center in Akron, said that this event was all about establishing mutual respect and an understanding of each other.
Ms. Holly Mueller, the Intern Minister at West Shore, said that we have come here to build a community that bridges our faith differences at a time when Muslims are becoming increasingly under fire. Ms. Mueller went on to remind everyone that we live in a country which was built on the principles of diversity and tolerance so it is important that we build bonds based on our strength, our love, and our acceptance of each other. Accordingly, by taking the time to listen to each other's stories, we help to create a better world.
Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC.