This week we held an interfaith meeting with attendees representing various congregations, religions, and communities of conscience. The idea behind this informal meeting was simply to get a group of conscientious people together to discuss issues or concerns in the community, from a faith-based or social justice perspective. We want to re-ignite a strong interfaith network that can be reactive to problems - and proactive about long-standing community issues. We also wanted to focus on general ways to improve interfaith and cultural exchange opportunities in our community, by ongoing activities and service initiatives more often and more widely.
Meeting members first discussed some of the current issues, such as the media pressure on the mosque in Cambridge, even in the face of broad community support for that establishment and its community. A representative from the mosque stated that he and the others felt that they were prepared for much of the media attention. However, they expressed (and many reiterated) the need for community support during this time, and tried to determine ways in which the interfaith community could bolster existing support. Others suggested that the mosque reach out to individuals that live in and around the area as well. The Cambridge police have already been excellent in their responsiveness to media attacks and threats of violence and have asked what the mosque may need for support.
We also talked about building a sense of connection between the various faiths in Cambridge. Cultural exchange and social gatherings can be inclusive of all members of the community. Others mentioned the idea of opening up religious institutions to the public around religious holidays as a means of cultural exchange and mutual celebration. For example, a regular community outreach project, such as a monthly service gathering to cook at women’s shelter or reviving interfaith soup kitchen service.
In the coming weeks and months we hope to see the interfaith community to grown in Cambridge. The hope is that the energy of those that attended the meeting, in conjunction with bits of organizing help and communication from Nadeem’s City Council office, will create a self driven interfaith group that will rebuild partnerships, engage in proactive mutual support, and set long-term goals. Tolerance and compassion are part of the fabric of Cambridge and the interfaith community is eager to promote these attributes. Additionally, we are optimistic about the potential for this group to grow, to benefit the city, and to enrich residents.