Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Rabbis and Imams break bread.

And the bread said, Ouch!

But seriously, there was no punchline. That's just what happened, they went to dinner. And it was good.

On Sunday, the NY Daily News reported that a group of Jewish and Muslim clergymen held an interfaith summit in Manhattan. I was excited to read this article because I think it's something our religious leaders need to do more: Talk.

When I was a Senior at NYU, our community faced an unfortunate aggressive backlash against Muslims following the September 11th attacks. As Vice-President of the Newman Club, our campus Catholic Club, I reached out to the Islamic Center and the Jewish Center and hosted an Interfaith dinner and talk. Almost 200 people showed up to our short-notice gathering and it remains one of the most incredible experiences of my life. We followed up with a pretty amazing Interfaith panel discussion in the Spring.

We received the NYU President's Service Award for holding the interfaith sessions and for helping to ease tensions in our community. I'm not sure if the dialogue continued after we graduated. But, I feel that now, as much as ever, we need to continue to reach out and learn about one another.

The article quotes the clergymen as stating that they learned from one another:
"We exchanged our cards. We exchanged our theology, our thinking, our etiquette," said Malik Sakhawat Hussain, the imam of the Al-Mahdi mosque in Coney Island, Brooklyn. "And we found we have much more in common than we thought."

For example:
"You say, 'Shalom,' we say, 'Salaam,'" he told one rabbi. "You say, 'Amen,' we say, 'Amin.'"

I also loved this story shared by Syed Zaheer-ul Hassan, an Imam from Trumbull, Connecticut:
He shared an Islamic legend about the great ancestor of both faiths, the man the Jews call Abraham and Muslims call Ibrahim.

"Ibrahim would never eat alone," Hassan told the group. "He would only eat when he had guests."

Once, three guests dined with Ibrahim and wanted to pay for the meal. Ibrahim said there was no charge, but the guests insisted. "Don't give me any money," said Ibrahim, "but accept the ideology of one God."

That was too much of a price for the visitors. They refused. "Then don't accept," Ibrahim said, "just bow your heads to the ground."

The imam continued, "As they bowed, Ibrahim looked to the heavens and said, 'Okay, God. You take it from here.'"

He then turned to the assembled rabbis and imams and said, "We've done our duty. God, we now need your help."

Monday, November 12, 2007

Smart Chicken

Back in July I received a forwarded email from my-soon-to-be-Uncle Steve that he had received from my-soon-to-be-Uncle Brad in Lincoln, Nebraska. The story was about a local Chicken plant that made a promise to deliver 2000 lbs of chicken a week to the City Mission for as long as they are in business.

The owner of Smart Chicken decided privately to share with the poor.

Apparently the City Mission has a distribution center that gives away food, clothes, and furniture to about 30,000 people a year. That's more than 10% of the population of Lincoln!

Uncle Brad pointed out in this email that with this donation, Lincoln might become the first city in America where "there is no hunger among the impoverished or the working poor." He explained that Pastor Tom of the City Mission was hoping that the momentum of this donation would encourage other businesses in Lincoln to make similar donations. That would be grand!

In his closing, Uncle Brad kept his hopes high and added, "When your town's Christian businesses are doing this let's talk about eliminating world hunger too!"

I'd like to simply add, "Let's do it!"

Sunday, November 11, 2007

For they shall be called children of God.

Matthew 5:9: Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.

Dear Friends,

My name is Christian Alberto Ledesma. I am a Public School Teacher in New York City. I am a Roman Catholic who sees God in the work that people do every day.

My favorite part of Scripture are the Beatitudes; especially Matthew 5:9 quoted above.

In a time when our country is dealing with international conflict that puts the lives of millions of people at risk, when people still suffer hunger and thirst, and when we spend time criticizing and over-analyzing the faith of our Presidential candidates, I think there needs to be some focus on the work that the good people of the Earth are doing every day.

In this blog I will try to spotlight some of the peacemaking, acts of love, charity, and positivity that often goes unnoticed. I hope it inspires others to do good and spread the message of peace.

As always,

Christian Alberto Ledesma