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Feast of Cultural Exchange

November 23, 2009

Thanksgiving comes at a perfect time for us at FCNL to rest after our successful annual meeting November 12-15, to relax and reflect on the year with friends and family. Personally, I am extra thankful for the opportunity to return to the familiar traditions of my small family after being abroad in Bethlehem last year. As great as it was to visit my relatives by Skype call, I will relish actually eating the tasty treats and bonding in person.

Interestingly, as many in the U.S. recover from eating tons of turkey, this Friday the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims will be celebrating one of the most significant holidays of Islam: Eid-al-Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice, sometimes called the Greater or Larger Feast. It recalls the obedience of Ibrahim to God, demonstrated by his willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael. Those observant Muslims who are financially able usually sacrifice a sheep, goat or other animal according to the religious tradition and local custom. This meat is divided and given to friends and to charity while some is kept by the family for eating as part of a huge feast of holiday delicacies that lasts several days and includes travel to visit extended family.

Eid-al-Adha follows the lunar Islamic calendar and so it moves every year. But this year, the popular feast of Thanksgiving day (in the U.S.) coincides nicely with this Muslim festival and offers a wonderful opportunity for religious and cultural dialogue as both feasts focus on charity and community. I found that one of the most powerful moments of annual meeting this year was listening to Dr. Sayyid Syeed who encouraged Quakers and others to be bold in engaging with the American Muslim community to see how we can work together. FCNL’s policy committee had been perfecting a minute for quite a while and at the meeting, the FCNL general committee approved the final product: “An Epistle Encouraging Quaker Engagement with American Muslims.”

Part of this statement encourages Quaker organizations, meetings, churches, and individuals “consider similar bridge-building for fellowship, joint service, and advocacy work as they discern openings.” I urge you to seek openings this weekend as holiday celebrations offer great opportunity for discussion, learning and fun. Take this chance to find out if there are Muslims within your community that you can get to know or Muslim organizations your meeting can build a relationship with. Happy Feast!

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