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Interfaith dinners help guests reflect on faith — theirs and others'

Recent “Amazing Faiths” interfaith dinners, a project of the Interfaith Alliance of Oklahoma, helped participants reflect on their own faith beliefs as well as the faith beliefs of others.
BY CARLA HINTON Published: December 1, 2012

Several Christians and members of the Baha'i Faith, a Sikh and a Muslim sat down together for an evening meal.

The topic of discussion for their interfaith gathering?

What else? Their faith.

Instead of tiptoeing around an often divisive topic, participants of the recent “Amazing Faiths” interfaith dinner dialogues focused on it. A project of the Interfaith Alliance of Oklahoma, about nine interfaith dinner gatherings were recently held across the metro area.

The initiative was started in 2006 by the Boniuk Institute for Religious Tolerance at Rice University in Houston. The first “Amazing Faiths” dinner-dialogue gatherings in the Oklahoma City area were held in 2008.

The dinners bring together people of different faiths for a shared meal at a participant's home, followed by a conversation about faith, led by a trained facilitator.

One of the gatherings in the Edmond area brought together Sarah Albahadily, a Muslim; Terry and Keith Angier, Baha'i Faith members; Harminder Mashiana, a Sikh; Gary and Jody Smith, Baha'i Faith members; and Jim Huff, Marilyn Barragree, Linda Koenig, moderator Sherry Sullivan and her husband, Blue Clark, all Christians who said they attend several metro churches.

After dinner, Sullivan let each person randomly choose a card with a question about how their personal faith has affected their life in some way. The questions were thought-provoking and helped stir conversation after everyone had spoken.

Albahadily shared several stories about how she tries to react positively to non-Muslims who stare at her in public places. She said her hijab or Islamic head scarf makes her easily identifiable as a Muslim and many people show their curiosity about her faith by staring.

The Smiths told the group how they learned about the Baha'i Faith — not by someone trying to convert them — but by several co-workers of Jody Smith who lived in different states. The couple said they are faithful members of the Baha'i Faith Center of Edmond.

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