By Debra J. White –
A sellout crowd of 200 Muslims, Jews, Christians, Buddhists and others packed the Ventana Ballroom at the Arizona State University Memorial Union to celebrate Thanksgiving in friendship and unity on Monday evening, November 21.
Sponsored by the Muslim Students Association (MSA), the interfaith dinner was presented with the cooperation of other student groups including Latter-day Saint Student Association, Sun Devils Are Better Together, Asian/Pacific American Students Coalition, Hillel Jewish Student Center, Buddhists for Peace, Oxfam America at ASU, Islamic Community Center of Tempe, Maroon and Gold Ambassadors, Challah for Hunger and Undergraduate Student Government. Some groups, such as LDS, Hillel, and Oxfam, had tables at the event and shared information about their work.
After a Qur’an recitation and Magrib prayer, hostess Lena Sarour, a recent ASU graduate and MSA member, welcomed the audience. Each table worked on an icebreaker about gratitude by asking one another: What are you most thankful for? Answers were jotted down on colorful paper leaves later collected for display at the end of the evening.
After a delicious dinner of turkey and all the fixings, guests listened to a panel of speakers discuss their version of gratitude. Jackie Sanchez, a native of El Salvador and ASU graduate student, was most thankful for her family and the values of hard work they instilled in her. Whenever Sanchez complained, her parents reminded her that back home her relatives were picking corn in the fields. Sanchez says she is blessed to have a job, an education and a wonderful family. The Reverend Erin Tamayo of the Arizona Faith Network said she is thankful for the chance to draw closer to God and one another. “Interfaith dialogue builds community. We all belong to God and to one another,” she said.
At the end of the evening, the panel of speakers received gifts in appreciation for sharing their honesty. Guests trickled out, one by one, still engaged in conversation. Charlotte Heiner, a member of the LDS church, said, “I was excited to interact with people of different faiths. It was my first time and I hope to do it again.” Isra Mishqat, a Muslim student, was glad to be at the dinner. “It’s a great opportunity to build bridges when we are divided. It’s one drop in the ocean that will help us come together as mankind.”