Turkish Ramadan Dinner

By Chuck Fisher
Peace & Justice Editor

Marywood wants us to “live responsibly in a diverse and interdependent world.” In order to responsibly live in that interdependent world, we need to better understand those people inhabiting it. With this in mind, for the last few years Marywood and a group of graduate students from Turkey have hosted an annual dinner during the sacred Islamic season of Ramadan. This dinner has been held as a way to highlight Turkish culture and cuisine and as a way to foster knowledge and understanding of a religion and part of the world that is often misunderstood. Furthermore, the dinner also featured representatives from four of the world’s major faiths, Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Hinduism. These representatives comprised a panel of speakers who spoke about the necessity of interdependence between different people throughout the world. So let’s take a look at what could be taken away from this diverse and important evening.

Much of Turkish culture revolves around the Islamic faith making the Islamic month of Ramadan the most important time of the year for many Turks, along with other Muslims throughout the world. According to Islamic belief, God first began revealing the Koran, the sacred book of Islam, to the prophet Mohammed during Ramadan, ergo its importance. Ramadan is meant as a time for Muslims to fast and pray; a time for deep spiritual introspection, as well as a time to do good deeds. The fasting of Ramadan entails a month long period where Muslims must abstain from eating, drinking, smoking, over indulgence and other activities, from sunrise to sunset. The fast is meant as a sacrifice but it is also meant to teach self-control, as well as empathy and commiseration with the poor. As soon as the sun sets, Muslims are permitted to eat again.

In respect to Ramadan tradition, no one in the Latour room during the Ramadan Dinner could eat until 7:22pm, the moment of sunset. Immediately prior to the beginning of the meal, a recording of the Adhan, the Muslim call to prayer, was played over speakers. The prayer is meant to signify the end of the fast and is a part of the five daily prayers that Muslims must make while facing toward Mecca. The call to prayer was haunting as it reverberated through the silent and captive audience instilling an inner peace. The indiscernible yet soothing words along with their meanings were projected on screen so that a universal comprehension could flow through the room as well. Following the prayer, came the feast!

After enjoying traditional Turkish food (Go Baklava!), we settled down to hear the panel of speakers. These included Rabbi Daniel Swartz, representing Judaism; Rev. Dr. Mary Jane Hitt, representing Christianity; Dr. Mustafa Yazicioglu, representing Islam; and Dr. Vijay Ramachandra, representing Hinduism. The overall theme this year was interdependence, therefore each panelist spoke not only of their particular faith’s beliefs and uniqueness, but also of the commonality they shared with the other religions in the room. It was a fascinating and moving discussion that reflected a spirit of ecumenism and dialogue that is often absent in our world.

The annual Ramadan Dinner brought together many diverse people from many diverse faiths and beliefs. In practicing the rituals and traditions of one faith, we were really celebrating the importance of all. The respect and unity displayed in that room is, more often than not, missing outside of that room. Regardless, at least Marywood is trying to set the example and be the role model for these times. In any event, I know I’m going back again next year. Good food, good people, good discussion. Isn’t that all we’re really looking for?