DCC News

 

Weekly e-newsletter for members and friends of the Dublin Community Church

 

October 12, 2007

                                                           

                                      

Land of Opportunity

The weekend began with a rehearsal dinner hosted by some Southern Baptists and ended with a dinner hosted by some Muslim-Americans and in between it became evident that the world had changed and this was not the world that I experienced when I was in college.

Last Fall when I first came to Dublin, there were some Muslim women in the Friday Women’s Fellowship. (They were active all year too.) A few weeks later we even hosted here at the church an Iftar, the meal to break the Muslim fast of Ramadan. I remember talking to a few of our members who had been to a larger CAIR (Council on American- Islamic Relations) Iftar on the Ohio State Campus. And now I had the opportunity to attend this year’s CAIR Iftar.

A month ago I was invited by church members to accompany them when CAIR met on the OSU campus. I was early, and took the opportunity to walk slowly through the OSU campus. I recall when I was a student on campus and I would see some old Alumni walking through the Oval, I would wonder if he or she was startled by the expansion of the campus by the year 1970 as compared with their college years back in the 1940’s (or the Dark Ages, as I assumed, since I was only 20 and the Alumni had to be over 40!).

I had time to enjoy the early fall evening just before sunset and I made a couple observations. First and foremost, I see that throwing the Frisbee on the Oval is still the primary form of personal contact. Interesting to note how many guys lost track of their Frisbee as a pretty co-ed walked by. Interesting to note how the co-eds slowed their walk as they approached the Frisbee throwers. Nothing new under the sun. And yes, there were a few co-eds tossing the Frisbee and doing some heavy duty jogging with ipods in their ears and the women’s soccer club (or whatever) walked through too.

I was intrigued to see that the library is completely gutted, with only stone, brick and steel still there. There is a total renovation. I don’t recall the library being anything to write home about in 1970, so it was due an upgrade. When it came to renovating the main Student Union, they didn’t even bother with upgrading. They just bulldozed and are starting from the ground up. It was fairly new when I was there. It is totally gone now.

But, I noticed another thing too. The students reflect a broader cross section of American life than when I was there. I don’t recall many Asian students back in the early seventies. I don’t recall students from Middle Eastern backgrounds. Both are quite noticeable … if you are inclined to sit and contemplate the ethnic origins of students. I recall a large contingent of Nigerian professors and lecturers in the African Studies department during my era, but for the most part, it was a pretty non-diverse crowd at the university back then. And, had I not been on campus for the express purpose of attending a specific ethnic event for CAIR, I probably would not have noticed that much.

 

 

But the CAIR gathering was for the end of Ramadan. They break their fast at sundown and the Iftar takes on the air of an ecumenical event. I stood by the main entrance, waiting for my friends to arrive. Naturally, there was a steady stream of Muslim families walking by me. Not figuring to know anyone, I paid little attention until one husband, wife and child stopped in front of me and asked if I was the minister at the Dublin Church. I responded that I am and realized it was one of the women from the Friday Women’s Fellowship. She and her husband had been to our Iftar last year and I had met them.

Once my friends arrived we went into the hall where there were eventually about 500 people. It was a mix of Muslims and Christians. It felt like any other banquet, with children running around, the aroma of good food in the air and the stage set for speeches and a video.

Mercifully, the speeches were extremely short and it was good to note that long windy speeches are the bane of any culture. One politician was invited to speak and there was a moment when I thought that the only thing more dangerous would have been to invite a Christian minister to stand in front of the microphone.

For me, the main event was to see that people are people. It is not easy being Muslim in America these days. And if I am honest, it is not comfortable being identified as a Christian minister some times either. But, in a world of war and terror and immigration, the world is smaller and we find that the people who were formerly “over there” are now our neighbors. The leaders of CAIR welcomed all with smiles and true friendship. They were eager to show us that in their prayers, they were merely doing as we would do in our own houses of worship. CAIR graciously thanked local politicians for their support. Local politicians campaigned as they would at any County Fair or outdoor public barbeque. The Columbus Mayor’s office issued a proclamation as did the office of Senator Voinovich.

And I suppose it is a good American Civics lesson to see that our politicians openly court a certain group of people by showing up and issuing proclamations. It took about a nano-second for the leader of CAIR to return the civics lesson as they urged those attending to note the politicians who had come to break bread with them.

In the midst of it all, there was Diet Coke and Middle Eastern lamb and extra spicy red sauce for the rice. The baklava contained enough sugar to meet your dietary needs for a month and a local Middle Eastern caterer who supplied the food was given a “plug” from the podium. It was good food too.

The fast was broken. We, non-Muslims were given explanations for the fast and reasons why the Middle Eastern community wants to be in contact with all religions and ethnic groups in this country. At the end there was a short video on the work of CAIR in America and as if to emphasize that no ethnic group is immune…there was a glitch in the video presentation at the beginning.

By Sunday night, I felt like I had been a witness and participant over the weekend to a couple vital religious segments of modern American life; Southern Baptists and Muslims. And of course I have a couple observations on the similarities of those two. Both treated me with respect, as a person and as a minister. Both placed great emphasis on “family.” And when it comes to banquets…alas…both are “dry.” Who would have thought they had so much in common?

Peace,   Bob