The Newberger Hillel and Brent houses co-sponsored an interfaith iftar Monday night, drawing about 50 students to celebrate the Muslim break-fast over dinner and discussion.
The iftar, which marks the end of each day of fasting during the month of Ramadan, came in the wake of a series of unsavory advertisements and exchanges about the Middle East. Organizers hoped the event would foster dialogue and personal relationships that would supplant the situation.
"The political barriers couldn't be broken down without a first step," said iftar organizer Abra Pollock, a second-year in the College. "We hope this will set off a chain reaction of interfaith events."
During the meal, Christian, Jewish, and Muslim students discussed topics ranging from their religions' views on life after death to inter-religious dating to how they deal with being observant at the University. "There wasn't a time when I was sitting next to any other Muslim students," said fourth-year in the College Mohanad Joudeh.
Students from Brent House and Hillel cooked the meal, prepared specially to meet Jewish and Islamic dietary restrictions. "We wanted to show the fasting Muslim students our hospitality," Pollack said. "We wanted to spend time and perform some labor of love."
Brent House host Will Bouvel, a third-year in the College, said that although planning the activity to meet each group's needs was a challenge, he had received only positive feedback. He hopes to be involved in another interfaith activity for Easter or Passover, as well as other events next year.
At the iftar, a new group was introduced to facilitate regular dialogue between Muslim and Jewish students. "There's a lot of interest to get to know about the other faith," said Ira Dounn who, along with Javeria Qureshi, a third-year in the College, is founding the group. "There's a lot of positive energy here."
Dounn, a third-year in the College, said the group will begin meeting during the first week of winter quarter. "It brings human beings closer together," he said. "For a long time Hillel and the MSA have never interacted--the time is long overdue.
"Our peoples have a lot in common and many differences," Dounn added. "We should get to know each other; the way to do that is through dialogue."