The holy days that converge in April provoke interreligious celebrations

The springtime collision of religious festivities is inspiring a variety of interfaith events. In Chicago, the Interfaith Trolley Tour will take place on April 24, in which a trolley will make stops at places of worship of different religions. In cities across the country, Muslims are inviting people to interfaith iftars so they can break their daily Ramadan fasts in community with their non-Muslim neighbors.

In addition to Passover, Passover and Ramadan, holy days celebrated in April this year include Vaisakhi by Sikhs and Hindus, Mahavir Jayanti by Jains, the Baha’i festival of Ridván and the New Year. Theravada Buddhist.

In all religions, the celebration of overlapping religious holidays and festivals is seen as an opportunity to share meals and rituals. For some, it’s also an opportunity to learn how to cooperate across religious traditions on crucial issues, including how to help curb climate change, fight religious intolerance and help people fleeing Afghanistan, Ukraine and other nations during the global refugee crisis.

“The rare convergence of such a wide variety of holidays is an opportunity for all of us to share what we hold sacred with our neighbors from other traditions as a way to build understanding and bridge gaps,” said Eboo Patel, founder and president. of Interfaith America, formerly known as Interfaith Youth Core. “This is Interfaith America in microcosm.”

On Chicago’s South Side, the upcoming trolley tour is intended to teach participants about this year’s April holidays, which converge for the first time in the same month since 1991, said Kim Schultz, coordinator of creative initiatives at the Interfaith Institute of the Chicago Theological Seminary.

The tram will stop at various holy spaces, including a Baptist church, mosque and synagogue, ending with a sunset iftar attended by recently resettled Afghan refugees.

“We’re asking people to take advantage of this confluence, the convergence … more than half the world is celebrating or commemorating the critical moment in our religious traditions,” said Hind Makki director of recruitment and communications at American Islamic College.

The event is sponsored by the American Islamic College, Chicago Theological Seminary, the Muslim-Christian Engagement Center for Peace and Justice at the Lutheran Divinity School, the Hyde Park and Kenwood Interfaith Council and the Parliament of Religions. of the world. After more than two years of COVID-19 restrictions that disrupted many holidays, fans are eager to meet again in person.

Organizers of the Chicago event said they had made arrangements for a car that would hold 25 people, but there was so much interest among the faiths that they had to make arrangements for a larger car for 40 people. And then, when more continued to join, a second car.

“This is a great moment,” Makki said. So why not take the opportunity to learn about each other’s traditions, learn about each other through those traditions?

As part of the month’s celebrations, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA opened its mosques to host dozens of interfaith iftars in cities across the country centered on the theme of “justice through compassion.”

“During our meetings in 35 cities, we emphasized that the world we see now is on the brink of a world war,” said Amjad Mahmood Khan, Ahmadiyya’s national director of public affairs. “And only the collective prayers and actions of the faithful can truly save humanity from self-destruction.”

Religious leaders from the Christian, Jewish, Sikh and Hindu faiths recently gathered for a virtual panel celebrating the convergence of their holy celebrations. Among the topics discussed were concerns about the rise of white Christian nationalism and legislation in Arizona and Florida that they criticized for marginalizing LGBTQ youth.

“We see that convergence as highly symbolic, perhaps even divinely ordained, as our people need to reaffirm our shared values ​​of love, freedom and justice in order to disrupt attempts by white Christian nationalists to decide what ideas, identities and practices are valued and respected. . said the Rev. Jennifer Butler, founder and executive director of the Washington-based multifaith group Faith in Public Life.

“This holy season presents the opportunity for solidarity, for prophetic witness as we mourn the rise of intolerance and discriminatory laws that threaten our nation’s quest to be a multiracial and multireligious democracy,” he said.

It will also be an important time for members of different faiths to find common ground in the run-up to the US midterm elections, said Nina Fernando, executive director of the Shoulder to Shoulder campaign, a national multi-faith coalition committed to countering and prevent discrimination.

“With the time that we are living where we are essentially polarized and divided along racial, religious and political lines, we can take this opportunity to talk about how to live well together in the midst of our diversity and talk about the overlap of these holidays,” Ferdinand said.

The convergence of the festivities also offers an opportunity to dispel misconceptions about religious traditions and appreciate shared values, said the Rev. Stephen Avino, executive director of the Parliament for the World’s Religions.

“The festivities are the enactment of core values, and we can actually see before our eyes the beauty of that tradition through the festivities and the rituals,” Avino said. “You can compare that to your own traditions, and you can see the similarities and differences and within that is the beauty of that. And you begin to see that faith as worthy of reverence, while maintaining your own faith.”

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Associated Press religious coverage is supported through AP’s collaboration with The Conversation US, with funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. AP is solely responsible for this content.

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