In an unusual evening of inter-faith dialogue, about 60 people gathered on the night of Oct. 11 in the University Student Union to eat and talk about fasting, a common religious practice in Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
At the event, which was organized by four religiously-inclined campus clubs, participants of different faiths asked questions and commented on religious topics including fasting, religious scriptures and prayer. Already in the third week of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, the evening was centered on the Iftar, the breaking of the fast, which occurred at 6:33 p.m.
“We wanted to be a part of it because we wanted to show solidarity with other religions,” said Darren Schlack, undergraduate student in the religious studies department and vice president of the Inter-Cultural and Religious Studies Student Association, one of the organizing clubs. “Our aim as a club is to encourage inter-religious dialogue and events.”
For Orthodox and Catholic Christians fasting is a common tradition during Lent, the month preceding Easter.
“We think and feel differently during fast,” said Patrick Nichelson, religious studies professor and participant on a three-member expert panel answering questions at the event.
Abstaining from food is an age-old religious practice where the physical aspect of fasting triggers spiritual reactions that lead to an intense focus, according to Nichelson.
Fasting is also an important part in the Jewish faith, which has a total of six days of fasting in a year. Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, which this year occurred on Oct. 2, is a 25-hour fast when Jews also wear white clothes, and refrain from washing, wearing leather shoes and driving.
“An event like this can only move things in a positive direction,” said Adam Siegel, member of CSUN Hillel, a Jewish student organization that helped to put together the evening.
“The point is to get people to find common ground,” explained Ettel Bubis, a former Israeli soldier visiting CSUN on a one-year volunteering mission for Hillel. Bubis said that during the time of fasting, you are the “closest to angelic potential as you can get.”
Toward the end of the two-hour event, during the question and answer part of the night, the experts were interrupted by the sounds of the CSUN Gospel Choir rehearsing next door.
“I expected to come and see a lot of food,” said Yoni Man, 19, a Hillel member and founding member of Northridge Students for Israel, a newly formed CSUN club. “I came away with a better understanding of Islam.”
After breaking the fast, most Muslim students in the room took off their shoes, formed two rows facing Mecca and bowed in prayer with their foreheads humbly touching the floor.
The next inter-faith event on campus will be “Abrahamic Visions,” three seminars on Nov. 8, 14 and 16, organized by the Muslim Student Association and Hillel.
“I was pleased with the turnout,” said Fatima Billoo, sophomore sociology major and vice president of MSA. “All these people here tonight will know somebody from a different faith, at least one person.”