That was the theme for the annual Table of Faiths of the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council, a signature event that annually brings together several hundred people to visit the booths over some 20+ different faiths practiced in Greater Kansas City and provides a unique interfaith dialogue opportunity. This post is written by a Cultural Crossroads volunteer who attended the event for the first time.
Faith, Food and Our Future Together (Interfaith Dinner in Kansas City)
Recipe for Community
Tonight I was invited to a dinner with the Interfaith Council of Kansas City, with over 20 different faith groups attending. Walking into the dinner, the room was filled with people. The main attractions were around the border of the room, where all the different faiths had set up a table to explain their religion, and be present for anyone who wanted to ask questions. The theme of the year was “Faith, Food and Our Future Together,” and thus, every faith group had printed out their own recipe to share.
In addition to the recipe cards and informational packets about their faiths on the tables, each religion provided their own tasty treats: ladoo (sweetened chickpea flower) at the Hindu table, challah bread at the Jewish table, fresh bread at the Mormon table, boiled wheat at the Christian Orthodox table and pistachios for strength at the Baha’i faith table.
I spoke with the people at the different tables as well. At the pagan table two women showed me the meaning of their trinkets on the table, and the balance that is all represented when being together. Later, as I was filling up on more coffee, one of the Pagan spokeswomen invited me to the Full Moon ceremony tomorrow night: women only. I also spoke with a women at the Vedanta table and the Baha’i table, and a few men at the Sufism table and the American Indian table.
For dinner, I sat at a table with people of the Muslim faith hailing from Africa, India and Pakistan. I spoke with one of the women throughout dinner, and she told me about the history of Islam in America, about her trip on the Hajj years ago, about her trip to Africa next week with her son, and about Indian and Pakistani relations.
Though the presenter of the evening began by noting that “interfaith dialogue is learning to communicate with those who you’re most likely to disagree with,” it was an extremely pleasant night.
We were served vegetarian lasagna for dinner. As it turns out, lasagna is the meal that people of most all faiths can agree on (no eggs, no meat). As I dug into the delicious food, I couldn’t help but think that the layers of the lasagna were symbolic of the different people coming together in this room, and making something worth writing down a recipe for.
Who was There
Alliance of Divine Love
This is an interfaith ministry that is centered in spiritual openness and respect of all beliefs, drawing from the focus of love at the center all all faiths and spiritual beliefs.
American Indian Spirituality
Though American Indian beliefs differ by tribe, there is an underlying belief that every part of creation is sacred and has the Spirit residing within, interconnecting all. The Sun Dance is a ceremony practiced by many Native American peoples and include the use of traditional drums, the sacred pipe, praying and fasting.
People of the Baha’i faith believe that God has sent the world a series of “divine Educators,” known as manifestations of God (these have included Abraham, Krishna, Zoroaster, Moses, Buddha, Jesus and Muhammad). Baha’u’llah, the founder of the faith in the mid nineteenth century, is the most recent of these educators and he expressed that all the religions of the world come from the same source. Unification of the people of the world is the most important focus for people of the Baha’i faith.
Buddhism is about pursuing wisdom and compassion to find peace. Buddhism is the world’s fourth largest religion, and imcludes two different paths: Theravada and Mahayana. Buddhists follow the teachings of the Buddha, originating from India. Buddhists believe that people cling to impermanence (dukka) and this is inherently unsatisfying and painful. This keeps on in a constant cycle of rebirth, the only way free of this cycle is through nirvana following the Buddhist Eight fold path.
Christian Catholic/ Christian Protestant/Christian Science/ Christian Orthodox/The Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints
Catholics and Protestants are the two main branches of the Christian church, which follows the teachings of Jesus. Catholics are the direct descent of the religion begun after Jesus’ life, and Protestant groups broke off in the 16th century. Christian Scientists believe in the ministry of spiritual healing through their faith. Christian Orthodox are similar to Catholics, but hold a more mystical view of the world, and do not try to explain the mysteries. The people of the Church of Later Day Saints faith are known as Mormons, who follow the Prophet John Smith’s teachings.
One of the oldest living religions, Hinduism has no prophet as its founder. The eternal truths were realized by men and women through meditation thousands of years ago. In the Hindu faith, the primary goals is daily realization of these truths. Worship of god by any name and in any form is acceptable, but the key is to worship. Hindus believe in karma, reincarnation, four stages and four goals in life, and rituals and prayers. People of the Hindu faith believe that “all religions are pathways to the soul,” and the concept of God is universal and all inclusive.
Islam means “peaceful,” in Arabic and is based on willing submission to the code of conduct ordained by God. People who adhere to the Islamic faith are called Muslims, and they believe in the prophets from Jewish and Christian traditions, in addition to the prophet Muhammad. God is absolute and perfect, and is of no comparison to his followers on Earth. Muslims follow the teachings in the Quran, and believe in eternal paradise after life.
The Jewish faith is an ancient monotheistic religion hailing from Middle East, and it is also an ethnicity. There are many different branches of Judaism including Orthodox, Conservative and Reform to name the major ones. The Torah is the foundational text of the religion, and religious Jews consider the faith to be the conventional relationship with God to the Children of Israel.
Paganism is a broad term that used to encompass beliefs and practices, most of the time being nature centered. While most who identify as Pagans may practice Wiccan, other practices include Asatru, Druid, Celtic, Shaman, Goddess, and others. The word pagan is a Latin term meaning “country dweller,” and was used to refer to those outside of the Roman kingdom. Over time, it came to be known as meaning beliefs outside of the dominant religious beliefs of the time.
Sikh Dharma was revealed to Guru Nanak in the late 1400s, who also maintained that all faiths of the world are valuable and essential to people. Most Sikhs do not cut their hair and also wear a head covering. Sikh’s carry a comb, a bracelet (symbolizing unity to god), a small dagger or replica of one (to symbolize willingness to defend the defenseless) and an undergarment as a reminder of monogamy. They believe in praying and chanting and selfless service.
Sufism is defined as islamic mysticism, and people of the Sufi faith believe God is everywhere, and in all the sacred scriptures of the world. The purpose of Sufism is to bring souls to God-realization, and to learn that God is everywhere. Sufis seek wisdom within themselves, and in the outside world. Meditation is an important aspect for Sufis.
The people who practice Sukyo Mahikari (meaning universal principles and light energy in Japanese) do not necessarily look at their practices as a religion, but more of a way of life. People practicing this faith regularly go to Sukyo Mahikari centers to receive light, the light coming from a higher dimension (often referred to as God). Adherants believe in reincarnation and positive spiritual growth.
This church was founded in South Korea in 1954 by Sun Myung Moon. Beliefs are derived from the Bible, and are spelled out in the church’s formal textbook. God is believed to be a duality of masculinity and femininity.
This community is a liberal religion with roots in Jewish and Christian traditions. The church is about the constant free search for truth, and the church believes in the idea that wisdom is always changing. The church believes in ethical living, and social justice is a strong core of their faith.
Unity Village is a local religion that was started right outside of Kansas City, MO, and is now a worldwide religion. The religion in based in Unity Village, MO and the religion is centered around Christian beliefs and practices. People who adhere to Unity beliefs do not believe that heaven and hell are real places, but rather a state of consciousness in the here and now.
Vedanta is a philosophy taught by the Vedas, India’s most ancient scriptures. The Vedas teach that a person’s real nature is divine and that god exists in every being. Religion for a Vedanta believer is the search for self knowledge- a search for god within the self. The answers lie within each human, we just need to take the time to look.