This April, Chicago has a rare opportunity for interfaith cooperation

Holidays important to a number of faith communities will converge this month for the first time in decades. In a time of rising faith-based bigotry, this should be a moment for Chicagoans of diverse backgrounds to learn about each other.

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Muslims exit Chicago’s Muslim Community Center after an evening prayer called “tarawih” as others pass by during the first evening of the holy month of Ramadan last year. This weekend, Muslims will begin their first fasts for this year’s Ramadan.

Muslims exit Chicago’s Muslim Community Center after an evening prayer called “tarawih” during the first evening of the holy month of Ramadan last year. This weekend, Muslims will begin their first fasts for this year’s Ramadan.

AP

As leaders in our own faith communities and in inter-religious circles, we are anticipating a spring filled with holy days of multiple religious traditions.

For the first time since 1991, Muslims, Jews, Christians, Sikhs, Baha’is, Hindus, Buddhists and Indigenous nations will observe holidays simultaneously. In April, this includes celebrations of Ramadan, Passover, Easter, Vaisakhi, Mahavir Jayanti, Theravada New Year and the Gathering of Nations.

This convergence, happening amid rising intolerance and discrimination, is the perfect time to connect, lift one another up and uphold our shared ideals: Treating our neighbors with dignity and respect, ensuring religious freedom for all.

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Our traditions, Islam and Christianity, call on us to know one another, welcome the stranger and to not slander one another. While the unprecedented global refugee crisis continues to grow, some say we must fear newcomers. Religious extremists and nationalists hijack our moral and ethical values, turning plowshares of cooperative living into swords. Coming together amid differences is not an easy path, but is rewarding for individuals and communities. We are better together than apart.

In our interfaith work, we witness solidarity and the building of meaningful relationships. A small interfaith group in Hyde Park began refugee resettlement in their neighborhood in 2016. It now has more than 225 supporters and is helping 10 families find self-sufficiency in their new lives.

One year, they hosted a quiet but unforgettable celebration of Nowruz (New Year marked in many countries along the Silk Road) with a refugee family in their new home. They were careful to celebrate in a way that would not re-traumatize the children — without crowds or the loud bang of fireworks.

During Ramadan, mosques and Muslim community centers invite neighbors for nourishment of body and spirit after a day of fasting. Guests attending iftar meals witness Muslims offering radical hospitality to others as a part of this holy month. Giving of ourselves in service builds trust and respect in all traditions. In encountering one another’s deepest held beliefs, our own faith convictions are often enhanced.

Chicago has a rich history of inter-religious collaboration. Home to national, international and local organizations. including Interfaith Youth Core, Parliament of World Religions, hundreds of schools, groups and congregations — providing many interfaith opportunities each day.

People from all backgrounds, including those who don’t follow a faith tradition, work together to address income inequality, violence on our streets, food deserts in our communities and environmental degradation.

The organizations for which the two of us work have cooperatively led classes and programs for over 35 years. From musical concerts to social justice advocacy to theological conferences, we provide a space for Christians and Muslims to build deeper relationships. We’ve found time and again that truly knowing someone from another tradition — balancing the similarities and differences — is what makes for spiritual growth and transformation.

The convergence of holy days this month provides an opportunity to strengthen relationships within our diverse Chicago communities. Learn about and celebrate a tradition other than your own, call out disinformation or hateful speech, and dig deeper into the meaning behind your own and others’ traditions.

We invite you to attend events which highlight one or more of the holy days this April, such as our Chicago Interfaith Trolley Tour on April 24 in Hyde Park. We will visit five sacred spaces to learn about April holy days and collaborative interfaith efforts in Chicago, including KAM Isaiah Israel, Ebenezer Baptist Church, Al Taqwa Mosque and University of Chicago Rockefeller Chapel/Office of Spiritual Life. Other speakers will present from Buddhist, Jain, Sikh and Baha’i traditions. An interfaith iftar meal at sunset, hosted at Chicago Theological Seminary, will conclude the day.

Let us take the opportunity during this month’s convergence of celebrations to create the world of positive inter-religious cooperation in which we want to live.

Hind Makki is director of recruitment and communications at American Islamic College. Sara Trumm is director of A Center of Christian-Muslim Engagement for Peace and Justice at Lutheran School of Theology.

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