By MARY ANN BOURBEAU, mycentraljersey.com
August 24, 2010
Pastor George Montanari of the Middlebush Reformed Church will be one of a group of Franklin’s religious leaders gathering at the Why Islam Center Thursday night to take part in a traditional iftar dinner, celebrating the holy month of Ramadan.
“I am grateful to Why Islam for extending an invitation to the Interfaith Council to be part of this event,” said Montanari, co-coordinator of Franklin Township’s Interfaith Council. “It will give us an opportunity to build bridges between different religions in Franklin.
“When you sit down and break bread with someone, it invites a certain level of friendship and familiarity. You start to understand what ties you together as well as what makes you distinctive people,” Montanari said.
Members of the public also are invited to the dinner which will be an opportunity to learn more about Islam and the programs and services offered by the center, which joined the Interfaith Council last year. Why Islam operates a telephone hotline — 877-WHY-ISLAM — to give people information about the religion. The center also offers seminars and classes and has a bookstore, food bank and youth center.
“We thought the Taste of Ramadan would be a good way to integrate ourselves into the community and try to educate people about Islam,” said Nahela Morales, administrative assistant for the Why Islam outreach program. “With all the controversy going on (with plans to build a mosque near where the World Trade Center stood), this will definitely help. We want to teach people that Islam is a very peaceful religion.”
Iftar, which is the breaking of daily fast during Ramadan, will begin with participants eating dates, followed by a traditional Pakistani meal consisting of tandoori chicken, biryani chicken, pasta salad and fruit salad. During the month of Ramadan, Muslims abstain from all food and drink between dawn and sunset in an attempt to become closer to God. It is also a time of spiritual rejuvenation, where Muslims focus on prayer and on sharing food and money with those in need.