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Fremont hosts interfaith community picnic

August 7, 2014

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Fremont hosts interfaith community picnic

People of many faiths gathered together for the Interfaith Harmony Picnic.

People of many faiths gathered together for the Interfaith Harmony Picnic.

Illustration | Brittany England

People of many faiths gathered together for the Interfaith Harmony Picnic.

Illustration | Brittany England

Illustration | Brittany England

People of many faiths gathered together for the Interfaith Harmony Picnic.

The Tri-City Interfaith Council held their first Interfaith Harmony Picnic on Saturday. The Picnic was held in the heart of Fremont at Meyer Park where people from various religious backgrounds came together to share food, experience and knowledge of their beliefs. The picnic strived to provide a pressure free environment in order to generate a welcoming atmosphere for Fremont’s diverse community.

Moina Shaiq, a member of the Muslim Support Network and Tri-City Interfaith Council, first realized the need for these events after the 2012 mass shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, where six Sikhs were killed and four were wounded.

In response to this tragedy, Fremont residents gathered in their central park to support the Sikh community. Noticing the numbers in attendance, Shaiq wondered how the community could come together on other occasions.

“What are we doing proactively? Why can’t we do something proactively? Why can’t we educate each other about who we are?” said Shaiq.

After researching, Shaiq found that the United Nations launched World Interfaith Harmony Week in 2011 to promote harmony among different faiths in response to conflicts surrounding differences in beliefs and culture all over the world.

Shaiq wanted to incorporate these values in the Fremont community and presented the idea to the Tri-City Interfaith Council. The council jumped on board and in February they held their first Interfaith Harmony Day.

The number of participants overwhelmed Shaiq. Through interaction, stereotypes and perceptions began to be overcome.

“People are people at the end of the day. It doesn’t matter what faith you belong to or what color of skin you are; whatever you are, I don’t care. It’s the human being in us, that’s all that matters,” said Shaiq. “We are not here to be critical of each other.”

Representatives from different faiths were in attendance at the picnic. There were members of the Hindu-Christian, Catholic, Jewish communities and more. In addition to the blending of faiths, there was a blending of culture as well.

Elaine Sanches, representative for the Catholic community and nun with the Sisters of the Holy Family, described the picnic as a blending not only of beliefs but of culture too.

“The food is a reflection of the people that live in the city of Fremont,” said Sanches. “Real flavor of the ethnic groups that are a part of this city.”

Jack Herrington, representative for the atheist community, attended the Interfaith Harmony Picnic in response to Hollywood’s portrayal of atheism in the film “God’s Not Dead.”

“I want to put a face on atheism and show that I’m not gonna eat people’s kids,” Herrington laughed. “I’m a normal guy, [with a] daughter [and] wife.” Herrington hopes that creating a forum for dialogue will positively influence the community.

“More talking, talking leads to peace and that’s a good thing,” said Herrington.

Rabbi Avi Schulman, representative for the Jewish community and a seven-year tri-city area resident describes the growing interfaith community as an educational experience.

“It’s a place where people of many different faith backgrounds come together and share in an atmosphere of trust and respect,” said Schulman. Beyond the learning aspect, the Interfaith Community project is meant to foster understanding and respect in the broader community. “It helps to anchor this diverse population in a sense of community and respect for one another,” he added.

Shaiq hopes that through these events and relationships, the community will begin to recognize a person beyond their labels.

“There are so many boundaries in this world today,” said Shaiq. “Apart from those boundaries, we all are human beings.”

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