VATICAN CITY – On this holiest of days for Christians around the world, many of the faithful flock to the Vatican City.
During his annual Christmas day message in Saint Peter’s Square, one thing Pope Francis prays for is a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “On this festive day let us ask the Lord for peace for Jerusalem and for all the holy land.”
As the Pontiff prays for a peaceful coexistence of multiple religions across the globe, closer to home we find folks putting their different faiths into action.
“In this time of tension all over the world, for Jews and Muslims to come together and recognize how much we have in common is a wonderful thing,” says Rabbi Steve Gross of the Houston Congregation for Reform Judaism.
It’s an annual tradition. Jews and Muslims unite during a religious holiday neither celebrates to discover that`s not the only thing they have in common.
“We realize that our hopes and dreams, our aspirations are all the same,” says Interfaith activist Shariq Ghani of the Minaret Foundation.
Assistant Rabbi Chase Foster of Congregation Beth Israel adds, “This event isn’t about proving anybody right or wrong. It`s about listening.”
They’ve been alternating houses of worship for eight years. And whether sharing space at a mosque or a synagogue, as they did this year, multiple generations are breaking down barriers and stereotypes, simply by breaking bread together.
Aaliya Khan is a Muslim teenager. “I’m really enjoying getting to meet new people and learning about the similarities between our faiths and cultures and also enjoying the arts and crafts and the food.”
This year’s activity is decorating boxes to be used as piggy banks. In Arabic: Sadaqah. In Hebrew: Tzedakah. Not only do the words sound similar, but they mean the same thing: charity.
Sandy Kantor is Jewish. “I’ve enjoyed interacting with my Muslim neighbors and learning a lot about their religion. And I`m also shocked at the similarities between our two cultures.”
Together these Jews and Muslims will raise money for a common cause, hoping to improve world-wide relationships – – – one small corner at a time.