Last Thursday, I had the pleasure of attending my first Ramadan Iftar on behalf of Glocally Connected. It was AWESOME.
Both observing and non-observing members of the community gathered in Riverside City Hall to break fast at sunset, and the event’s guest list showcased the city’s commitment to diversity.
The Iftar, hosted by the Islamic Center of Riverside, attracted local and state government officials like Senator Richard Roth and Mayor Rusty Bailey, religious leaders like Ibrahim Massoud, and UC Riverside faculty like Vice Chancellor Mariam Lam Named, many of whom shared their sentiments and support toward the Riverside Muslim community.
Through this opportunity, Sherry and I communicated the mission of Glocally Connected and identified potential allies and partners, all while being treated to a delicious meal of figs, rice, meat, and vegetables!
As the speech-giving progressed, love, peace, and light emerged as key themes along with Riverside’s four pillars (inclusivity, diversity, respect, and pride), challenging the divisions of today’s world. These community leaders had come from all walks of life, religious affiliation, and political orientation, and yet, their speeches harmonized perfectly.
They addressed sensitive topics and current events, but refused to submit to fear. They were completely realistic about the challenges ahead, but still chose to renew their commitment to bridging divides. Labels and statuses melted away, leaving behind something remarkably human.
Because of this experience, I felt re-energized, and also incredibly excited for the rest of the internship to unfold.
The Iftar reminded me of the most valuable service one can provide for another: the opportunity to be seen and to be heard. Most importantly it reminded me that at a time when the world seems to be riddled with division, the best place to start is to meet a new neighbor and share a meal.