Yalies of many different faiths gathered at the Yale University Chaplain’s residence Thursday night for the chance to discuss feasting and fasting throughout the various religions represented at the University.
More than 20 people, including citizens of New Haven and Yale students and graduates represented a variety of religions such as Islam, Judaism, Native American faiths, Baha’i and numerous denominations of Christianity, including Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy and Protestantism.
Yale Chaplain Frederick Streets, an American and Progressive Baptist minister in the United Church of Christ, and Associate Chaplain Cynthia Terry, from the United Church of Christ, encouraged their guests to speak candidly with one another about days of special observance in their own faiths.
Streets said he was encouraged by the guests’ enthusiasm. He said they showed how committed the Yale community is to understanding its own very diverse members.
“It was easy to see that we could have talked for hours,” Streets said. “Diversity doesn’t just refer to ethnicity or culture, but to religions as well. Open dialogue is the best way to promote understanding across — and within — the many religions represented at Yale.”
Al Cadena SOM ’05 gave a detailed presentation on the numerous days of feasting and fasting in the altered Baha’i calendar. Although four guests were of the Baha’i faith, many other audience members had never heard of the religion, which is one of the world’s youngest.
Many members said they were committed to deepening their own understanding of faith. Some had recently converted to other religions, while others wanted the chance to explore the teachings of other faith traditions.
Christians, who represented a large proportion of the guests, discussed with each other differences in their denominations with regard to holy days. Many had been unaware of the wide spectrum of traditions among the numerous branches of Christianity.
New Haven resident Reza Khan, a Muslim, spoke extensively about Ramadan — Islam’s holy month of fasting — and its continued importance in the 21st century.
“One of the reasons why fasting is powerful is because eating is one of the most animal instincts that we have,” Khan said. “Fasting is a powerful way to control the animal within us and recognize our human power to make decisions.”
Multifaith Council member Laura Khalil ’05 said she was pleased with the guests’ open discussion of their faiths.
“I’m really excited at not only the turnout of diverse religious, but also by the way that everyone displayed interest in each other’s religions,” Khalil said. “It was great to see that people touched open other topics in religion as well.”
The dinner was the first of many “moveable feasts” planned jointly by the chaplain’s office and the Multifaith Council to promote dialogue between different religious groups at Yale. Other meals will be planned in different centers of worship, such as the Roman Catholic St. Thomas More Chapel and the Muslim prayer room in Bingham Hall. A multifaith retreat is scheduled for Nov. 8.
In the spring, the Multifaith council will sponsor a dinner series in which a different religion will be discussed at each meeting.