Hunger Banquet

On April 10th, I participated in the Interfaith Youth Core “Better Together” Day. Our CLU Interfaith Allies group put on a “Hunger Banquet” to celebrate the occasion. I originally went to this event because after learning about the founder of the Interfaith Youth Core. – Eboo Patel – I was really interested in learning about how I can get involved in this movement. To be honest, I went to the Hunger Banquet with absolutely no idea of what to expect.

When I first got there, I was given a little slip of paper that stated my new identity for the night. I was Adis, a low class widow and a mother of seven who lived in the the Rift River Valley in Africa – working full time at any small job that would help me feed my children. I was asked to sit on the floor with other individuals who were below the poverty line. Middle class individuals were seated at the fold-able tables and chairs and high class members were seated at a fancy tables with tablecloths, fine dishes, and waiter service. Fortunately (or unfortunately), I “won the lottery” and was asked to move to the high class table. I was served a three course meal – pear and cranberry salad with bread rolls, chicken with squash and jasmine rice, and cheesecake topped with whipped cream and seasonal berries. Needless to say, there was surplus of food for us – most of us let some food go to waste. On the other hand, the middle class people were only allowed to get some rice and beans on paper plates, and the lower class individuals were only given rice and water.

It was hard to watch the other classes eat their “meals” and not feel guilty. [I would like to mention that there was an act of redistribution that took place during dessert. Many of us were full when the cheesecakes came out and we decided to give them to the lower class individuals.] While we ate, there were presentations about the wealth distribution in the world, waste on campus, and many food and farming programs such as Food Share in Ventura County, MANNA Food Bank in Conejo Valley, and Abundant Table/”Farm to School”. I was actually lucky enough to sit across from the Chairperson at MANNA – Holly Saks. She explained to me that I shouldn’t always feel guilty. At first I was taken aback by this statement. But she further explained that if there is a disaster in a third world country and they lose all their shoes, we shouldn’t donate 500 pairs of shoes. If we do, we will put the shoemaker out of business and he will have no way to provide for his family. We have to provide resources for these individuals so that they can rebuild their own lives and strengthen their own economy. It is, however, our job to share our resources and try to eliminate corporate greed. Take out the belief of “other” and stop looking at the poor as “them”. Greet them as neighbors and use this as an opportunity to get out of our own bubbles. “We’re all in this together.” Nonetheless, she still reminded me that community collaboration was key  to making a difference.

This experience was very captivating and further motivated me to pursue my interest in the Interfaith Youth Corp, so that I too, can stand up for religious intolerance. The banquet concluded with a beautiful quote from the one and only Nelson Mandela – “Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like Slavery and Apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. YOU can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom.”

Mehak Sachdev

Class of 2017

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Fast-a-thon: Hungry for Change

Born in Guatemala in 1993, but adopted by a U.S. resident seven months later, the feeling of true hunger is foreign to me.  I have been told that my birth mother did not have the means to raise a child, so she put me up for adoption – to allow for me a better life.  I am unsure if I had other brothers or sisters, and if they survived, and I am unsure of the life my birth mother was able to live.  What I do know is that Guatemala is a nation of extreme poverty and corruption, and at the time of my birth, the country was still split by civil war.  Food was not something Guatemala hoarded.

When my mom came to see me for the first time in Guatemala, she stayed at an American hotel in the heart of Guatemala City.  The adoption social worker who worked with her brought me to the hotel because the conditions of my birthplace, as she was told, were not fit for an American.  But my mom was familiar with the villages of shacks, and the scrawny kids who inhabited the dirt roads, taking any food they could find.

Last Friday marked the first time I officially fasted for a specific cause.  From sunrise to sundown only water went into my mouth.  It was an 11 hour period, which does not seem long at all, but around noontime, I felt the churning in my stomach.  Each hour after there was the growling pain, though minor and short-lived.

Giving up food for 11 hours was no marathon task, but not eating for more than an entire day could be.  Or what if I fasted the same way for 11 days, drinking only modest amounts of dirty water, and ending the fast not with a light meal, but with a piece of food that may have little nutritional value?  Here in the U.S. I have the luxury of surplus food, available whenever I want to eat.  My kitchen cabinets are full of snacks, and the refrigerator and freezer are packed.  There are three major grocery stores, twelve restaurants, and four fast-food eateries within three miles of my house.  I live in a society where I can enter a store with the intent to buy pens and paper, and leave with a special edition bag of goodies to munch on because they looked good and cost only a pinch of coins.

I have always known that my current life is perfect when it comes to human necessities.  I let people know that my mom is my hero because she literally saved me, and I am thankful for everything I have.  However, this fast made me realize how valuable food truly is.  Some cultures believe food is sacred; I throw items away on the day of their expiration date.  Fasting has allowed me to treat food with a higher regard for those who do not have any food.

I am grateful for the opportunity Interfaith Allies gave me.  It was incredible to fast with people who cherish the opportunity as much as I do, and then break the fast with a group of people from different backgrounds.  Fasting is not something I grew up with, but I now have respect for those faiths that incorporate fasting into their religious practice.

–Michael Nicholson, Class of 2015

Beginning the Journey

I began this journey with Interfaith because I liked the idea that people from different backgrounds were coming together. I wasn’t entirely sure why people from different faith backgrounds would come together, but I wanted to find out. Holding to the view that God has created each person unique and special, I am an avid fan of diversity. A native to California, I’ve had the privilege of living amongst people from many different ethnic backgrounds.  I am also biracial and no stranger to the sting of racism. Growing up I didn’t feel brown enough for the Hispanics or white enough for the whites, culturally speaking, however, Growing up in a secular home, It wasn’t until I became a Christian at age 19 did I begin to understand the discrimination felt by religious groups, even a religious majority. Since starting this journey I have grown to understand that people from other religious backgrounds feel the alienation I do living in a secular society that compartmentalizes religion. Another factor that drew me to interfaith originally is that I lacked a venue, outside of the walls of my church, to talk about “my faith”. I wondered if interfaith could be such a venue where I would find students who talked about God, were passionate about their faith, and saw justice as a part of that faith. Now, being at a university, and involved with Interfaith Allies where I can be who I am, and where talk about God is valued, I feel so liberated. I began my research of interfaith by reading a memoir by Eboo Patel, an American Muslim who founded the Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC), and by participating in a group called interfaith allies, an IFYC affiliate on my campus at California Lutheran University. Since that time, the journey continues getting richer and more surprising as things unfold…to be continued….

-Lacey Soto, Interfaith Ally, Religion DA

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Focusing on Interfaith Literacy

Hello Allies,

Shireen here with an update on this past Interfaith Friday (9/20/13). The Interfaith Allies used an alternative tabling event to gauge the Interfaith Literacy at Cal Lutheran. Alongside my team I helped administer fun rounds of an Interfaith Game Show. The winners received an Interfaith Youth Core Tshirt,  Acts of Faith by Eboo Patel, Sacred Ground by Eboo Patel, or Faitheist by Chris Stedman.  It  was also interesting watching over 30 people fill out the (quite challenging) Interfaith Literacy Quiz (click the link to take the quiz). The 10 question quiz had an average score of 3.6! Woa.. I’ve posted the Interfaith Literacy Quiz ANSWERS for those who want to check their answers.

Don’t feel bad. The 3.6 score may seem low but I look at the results and I see the Interfaith tabling as a success. The success is in the many who students who stopped by to see what Interfaith Friday meant or by many students who learned something new by picking up a cool Interfaith Fact while on their way to class. We also had students dedicate time to evaluate their own knowledge of different faiths/philosophies by filling out a quiz or being part of one of the 7 rounds of the Interfaith Game Show.  Sure, not everyone won the game show round. …and Sure, not a single person received a 10/10 on the Interfaith Literacy quiz… but what makes this event a success is that these students took a pause on their morning activities and TRIED!

I went home after the event and decided to quiz my dad with the Game Show Questions. My father failed miserably.  The only answers he knew were questions about Islam. After going through the questions, I shed light on my dad’s interfaith illiteracy by telling him that he scored horribly. But he had an interesting response. He said that it didn’t matter whether he knew the answers to these questions, as long as he focuses on being unbiased. My Dad talked about how he will always do his best to understand all sides of the situation and the most important thing was to be just and to be fair. He stressed that knowing facts about a group may not stop a person from being unkind to that particular religious group. Knowing Interfaith Facts was not important to my dad, but having respect and kindness for all people of all background is of upmost importance.  My dad embodied the “Golden Rule” while having no idea what the “Golden Rule” was. “Treat others the way you want to be treated”. My dad displayed the insight that this Interfaith Literacy Event was after.

If you stopped to participate in the Interfaith Tabling on Friday and realized how little you know about different faiths, use this as an opportunity to gain appreciative knowledge about that faith. And if you had trouble matching the faith to the “Golden Rule” in question 1  then…Great!. It was a hard question because all the passages were so similar. The difficulty of that question reiterates the beauty of the “Golden Rule” and how many religions have this principle. The best ways to gain appreciative knowledge is by building relationships and engaging across lines of religious difference. Our school average of 3.6 shouldn’t be viewed as disappointing or sad but should be celebrated and should also be a challenge to learn more. All the while understanding the “Golden Rule” and having upmost respect and appreciation for everyone. We are a community.

-Shireen Ismail