Popular Muslim event serving homeless people draws hundreds, and a new Christian partner

11022019_homeless_164053-780x479Aziz Junejo was scared no one would come. This is the 14th year he’s helped organize an event for homeless people with volunteers from local mosques and Muslim groups. But the location for Saturday’s “Day of Dignity” was new: Plymouth Church in downtown Seattle.

He didn’t have to worry. “We’ve never had so many people before,” Junejo said, near the end of the four-hour event, previously held at the Millionair Club. “We’ve had well over 300 people.”

Around him, a half-dozen barbers were giving haircuts, an acupuncturist was working to relieve aches and pains, and volunteers were handing out winter coats, backpacks and an array of other items that filled large tote bags to the brim. Nearby, a medical station offered free HIV and other tests. Earlier, many had eaten a lunch of chicken and rice.

Junejo approached Plymouth in hopes of starting an interfaith partnership for the event. The church was eager, said its executive minister, the Rev. Steven Davis. Plymouth already provides space for Muslims to pray during the week, including for a Friday afternoon service. He offered Junejo free use of the same space where that service is held, and said members of his congregation may get more involved in future years.

In the Muslim community, said volunteer Maria Romero, “this is such a well-loved event” that she tried unsuccessfully to sign up for several years. All the volunteer spots were full. This year, she and 24-year-old daughter Iman Khalaf finally made it in. “It’s something that’s really important to us as a family,” Maria Romero said, explaining that volunteering empowered her to do something about a problem she has seen steadily worsen.

FULL ARTICLE FROM SEATTLE TIMES 

 

Sign of hope: An interfaith dinner for the needy by Muslims, Jews

interfaithIt’s hard to find the good this holiday season. From domestic political strife to global conflict, it seems violence and division will prove the overarching themes of this dwindling year.

It can be all too easy to focus on the darkness instead of the light, especially in my profession. But a trip to the Muslim Association of Puget Sound (MAPS) in Redmond this week reminded me that for every cruel act that makes headlines, there’s a flood of compassion that often doesn’t.

You may have heard of MAPS because its sign has been vandalized twice in the past three weeks. But I didn’t visit the mosque to talk about acts under investigation as possible hate crimes. I was there to talk about Christmas Eve dinner for the needy.

 “We will be bringing rice and pita and curry chicken,” says Khizer Sheriff, co-founder of the Muslim Community Resource Center, the service arm of MAPS. “We try to turn the spice level down, but people really enjoy it. It’s something a little different.”

Sheriff is describing the Christmas Eve dinner he and other volunteers will be serving in Seattle to more than 100 people this evening (the space wasn’t available on Saturday).

This multicultural dinner was founded by a Jewish woman and staffed in part by MAPS and its service arm. It’s its fifth year and has become a favorite tradition.

“It really is about putting our faith in action,” says Sheriff. “Christmas Eve is just another occasion when we can share our blessings with others who are less fortunate.”

For his daughter, Nehath Sheriff, who has volunteered at every Christmas Eve dinner since the start, it’s a reminder of what really matters.

“I think that we all take dinner and family for granted,” she said. “It’s a very humbling experience.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE SEATTLE TIMES 

Jewish, Muslim and Christian kids from the US and Jerusalem come together at a Seattle summer camp

summer campAt a summer camp in Mount Vernon, Washington the campers do plenty of classic camp activities.

“Yesterday there was tie-dye, sports, swimming,” says Riva, a camper from Bellevue.

But Kids4Peace ultimately has a deeper purpose. The camp brings Jewish, Muslim and Christian 12 year olds from Washington state together with 12 year old Palestinians and Israelis, from Jerusalem, for 12 days.

“Where I live everyone is Jewish,” says Meital, a Jewish girl who lives between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. “There’s different varieties of Judaism where I live but there’s no Muslims or Christians. But I have met Arabs before.”

Meital’s lack of exposure to other cultures and religions is exactly why the camp was established.

“The organization was started in Jerusalem, in 2002, during a time of pretty intense violence in the Middle East, in Israel/Palestine in particular,” says Kids4Peace Northwest regional director, Jordan Goldwarg. “And the goal has always been to bring kids together to talk about their religion, their culture, their heritage and to learn from each other. Also, just to have time and opportunity to be kids together and to grow up in a safe environment.”

Twice a day, between weaving friendship bracelets and roasting s’mores, the kids are led through some pretty deep discussions.

“Learning how to be a better listener. Learning how to build trust with other people. Learning how to see different perspectives and different sides of a story,” Goldwarg said. “We also spend time everyday engaged in interfaith learning. So the kids really start to understand: What does it mean to be Jewish? What does it mean to be Muslim? What does it mean to be Christian?

The values of each of these faiths lead us towards peace.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM MY NORTHWEST

-summer-camp