What is the date of Easter, Passover and Ramadan this year? Are the holidays related?
That Easter, Passover and Ramadan – the main holidays in the three Abrahamic religions – are converging this year has not escaped the notice of the Christian, Muslim and Jewish communities.
Across the country, there are a host of interfaith events to attend in honor of the overlap, from virtual gatherings to in-person Ramadan fast-breaking meals, or iftars, hosted by mosques and churches, at tables rounds in colleges and universities. But, of the many events taking place this month, perhaps the most unique is the Chicago Interfaith Trolley Ride.
Departing April 24 from the Chapel of Chicago’s Lutheran School of Theology, the Interfaith Trolley Tour will take passengers south of the city, stopping at sacred spaces in Hyde Park and Kenwood, including a mosque, a church , a synagogue and a Buddhist center. . Hosts and attendees will discuss the interfaith work happening on the ground in these neighborhoods.
Additionally, given that festivals of other world religions also fall in April this year – including the Sikh celebration of Vaisakhi, various Hindu festivals, Theravada Buddhist New Year and the 12-day Baha’i festival of Ridvan – there will be speakers on the interreligious wagon tour of these religious circles. The three-hour journey will end with an interfaith iftar.
When designing the project, the organizers planned for a single 25-passenger trolley. But the initiative – which is a joint effort of the American Islamic College, the Chicago Theological Seminary, the Center of Christian-Muslim Engagement for Peace and Justice at the Lutheran School of Theology, the Hyde Park Kenwood Interfaith Council and the Parliament of religions of the world — was so popular that organizers had to book a cart for 40.
And then they had to organize a second cart, said organizer Kim Schultz, coordinator of creative initiatives at the Interfaith Institute at Chicago Theological Seminary.
She noted that the trip was organized in part to mark the rare convergence this year of so many religious holidays. The last time so many holidays around the world lined up in the same month was in 1991, Schultz said.
Organizers were looking to do something that would “pass sharing a plate of hummus,” she said. “We live in a time where it’s not just about learning, it’s about ‘How can I support (other communities)?'”
She and other organizers hope attendees will leave the wagon with the ability to “embrace and live with our religious and cultural diversity.”
“I hope we can sit on a cart together and realize that we have a lot more in common than we don’t and maybe that will inspire someone to think differently or act differently next time around. ‘he’ll meet someone who looks different and acts different or loves differently or prays differently than they do,’ Schultz said.
The impact of such initiatives can reverberate far beyond the lives of those who participate, Schultz added, explaining that those taking the tram could potentially explain what they learned on the tour to someone who would never register for such an event. “And that’s how change is created, isn’t it?” she says.
Not only do the holidays overlap this year, but so do the religious texts. A virtual community iftar hosted by NewGround: A Jewish-Muslim Partnership for Change kicked off with a note that the part of the Quran Muslims would read that night matches part of the Haggadah, the story Jews read at Passover.
Professors invited to the event were Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker of Coleyville, the leader of the Texas Beth Israel congregation who was held hostage at his synagogue in January along with a handful of congregants, and Azhar Azeez, the CEO of Muslim Aid USA. The two men discussed that the many commonalities between the Quran and Jewish religious texts point to the need to break down barriers and bridge differences.
Caring for those around us is both part of Ramadan and a shared value, Azeez said. In both religious traditions, people are taught that “we cannot fill our stomachs when our neighbors are hungry,” he said.
Rabbi Cytron-Walker agreed, adding that in Islam and Judaism it is essential not only to have values, but also to live them. One way to do this, he said, is to build relationships.
The pair were joining the virtual event from Texas, not far from a church that later this month will host an in-person iftar expected to include roughly equal amounts of Christians, Jews and Muslims. The event, which is organized by the Jewish community, will take place April 19 at Northwood Church to mark Easter, Ramadan and Passover, said the Reverend Bob Roberts, the church’s senior pastor. He said he expected about 100 attendees from each of the Abrahamic denominations.
The gathering is unique, noted Reverend Roberts, because while there are often Jewish and Muslim interfaith gatherings, there are few that also include Christians and even fewer with evangelicals, in particular.
Northwood Church is part of the Southern Baptist Convention, and most evangelicals “are not in that (interdenominational) space,” he said, even though they should be.
Calling on evangelicals to emulate the biblical ideal of “blessed are the peacemakers for they will be children of God,” Rev. Roberts added that “peacemaking is not just about getting people to accept Christ.” . Too often, evangelicals only see non-Christians as potential converts rather than taking them on their own and learning from them, he said.
“What better time to do that than during Ramadan, Easter and Passover? “, he said.
Over the next few weeks, many mosques will also open their doors to non-Muslim neighbors by holding interfaith iftars.
Through an initiative organized by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA, 30 mosques across the country will host iftars organized around the theme of “Justice through Compassion,” said Harris Zafar, national spokesperson for the community.
“Ramadan is a time of intense prayer, introspection and sacrifice,” he said, adding that an even greater challenge than fasting during the hours of sunshine is the burden “of improving your inner moral core”.
Against the backdrop of the escalating conflict in Ukraine and the persecution of various religious groups around the world, Zafar said Muslims should use the spiritual work of Ramadan to go beyond “compassion being only ‘a feeling”.
“What we hope is that a gathering like this provides a good opportunity to examine how our religions compel us to put compassion into action,” he said.