Saturday, February 29, 2020, we went to the Westshore Unitarian Universalist Church in Rocky River to the Fourth Anniversary of Teatime for Peace described as “an interfaith and community dialogue with the focus on getting to know your Muslim neighbors.”
As Ms. April Stoltz who was one of the initial founders of the program recalled, it was exactly four years ago on this very date in 2016 that the very first Teatime for Peace took place at Westshore in response to inflammatory rhetoric about Muslims that was uttered in the 2016 U.S. Presidential primaries. She said that they planned for 65 people to show up at the very most but instead twice that number turned out. Ms. Stoltz went on to say that since that time some twenty-nine more Teatimes have been conducted (I.e. today was the thirty-first) throughout Northeast Ohio and have been attended by an estimated four thousand people. In addition to Ms. Stoltz, we were addressed by several people connected with Teatime for Peace (i.e. our friends Mr. Isam Zaiem and Ms. Samantha Salamon) as well as Ms. Hamid Hasan of the West Cleveland Muslim Association and Mr. Tariq Ata from the Lakewood Community Relations Advisory Committee.
We ourselves have attended approximately eight teatimes since its inception. As we have written before, the format consists of people of all faiths sharing tables and discussing their own personal/religious backgrounds and belief systems. At the end of the session, it is often the case that the participants discover that they have more in common than what they initially thought. On this occasion, we were fortunate to discourse with a doctor who immigrated to the United States from Libya and a young woman whose family immigrated here from Palestine. Both were Muslim and we learned a lot by dialoguing with both of them.
At the end of the program, closing prayers were appropriately offered by both Imam Ramez Islambouli from the Dept. of Religious Studies at CWRU and Senior Minister Reverend Anthony Makar of the Westshore Unitarian Universalist Church, the launching pad for this beautiful and successful endeavor.