The Niagara Foundation is proud to kick off its year-round Abraham’s Tent program with the motto “Open Doors, Open Minds and Open Hearts”, starting in the month of Ramadan. This initiative aims to provide space for people of differing religious and cultural traditions to get-to-know one another in the cozy intimacy of each other’s homes and seeks to build community through casual conversation over a delicious meal.
So far, Niagara has partnered with the Islamic Society of Midwest and the Turkish American Society of Chicago, who will provide host families throughout the month of Ramadan and beyond.
We hope you consider becoming a part of this great initiative that will lead to a growing pool of open hearts in the Chicagoland area.
This project was nominated for a Chicago Innovation Award!
Nervous about hosting? We’ll help you prepare!
For more information and questions contact Rana Yurtsever
Abraham, “Friend of Allah” (c.f. Q4:125) and beloved patriarch for Christians, Muslims and Jews alike, is seen as a leading model of moral and ethical conduct. The biblical tradition illustrates the value of “hospitality” in the story of Abraham at Mamre (Gen. 18:1-33) where Abraham selflessly provides food, shelter and comfort to three unknown travelers in his and his wife Sara’s humble tent. Over the centuries, each of the three traditions has developed a unique cultural and theological expression of this value. Now our kitchens and living rooms provide the same space for hosting temporary and mobile gatherings of interreligious and intercultural encounter.
Although the reference to Abraham will speak to Muslims, Jews, and Christians, all faiths are welcome and encouraged to either host or gather under a tent!
“We very much enjoyed hosting an Abraham’s Tent dinner for Rogers Park-Edgewater neighbors this past February. The eleven attendees came from the Jewish, Muslim, Roman Catholic, Methodist, and Lutheran traditions. We served the Palestinian entrée maaklooba (chicken, eggplant, cauliflower and rice), along with hummus, olives, and Lebanese fatouche salad. The three-hour table conversation provided time for each person to share both life and faith journeys. It was especially interesting to hear about the experiences of two Turkish physicians getting settled into American life Chicago-style, as well as about the challenges and rewards of being American converts to Islam. Although both of us have decades’ worth of interreligious friendships, this occasion was a special experience because of the spirit of openness and welcome demonstrated by eleven people of many religious and ethnic backgrounds.”
Ryan and Carol LaHurd, Edgewater, Chicago (Christian)
“Over the past couple years; I have attended so many wonderful events organized by Niagara Foundation. These events have been successful at fostering mutual understanding by bringing people together and providing the opportunity to share ideas. With the Abraham’s Tent program, my role was upgraded and I was given the chance and responsibility of hosting a dinner with the sole purpose of inter-cultural and inter-religious dialogue. I was so excited to see how food can help bring people together even though we were all from different religious and cultural backgrounds. None of us had known each other from before. However, our conversation was so warm and friendly that it gave me the feeling of meeting with an old friend I had known for many years. I have learnt many things of which I was not aware. Now I look forward to meeting with my friends again to share a meal and deepen our friendship”.
A. Afsin Oktay, MD, Rogers Park, Chicago (Muslim)
“I would say that for us it was a very enjoyable evening with lots of easy, interesting conversation. There was no “agenda” of topics to discuss, nor did there need to be. The talk just flowed naturally. We had chosen to host the dinner on a Friday night deliberately, so we could share the Jewish home rituals of the Sabbath, which I hope people enjoyed participating in. I’m always happy to increase people’s knowledge of Judaism, and my own about other religions, and I think the evening provided opportunities for both.”
Lenore Mass, Hyde Park, Chicago (Jewish)
“Niagara never seizes to amaze me when it comes to being open to inventing new platforms to bring people together.”
Edip Pektas, Chicago (Muslim)
“The Abraham’s Tent dinners sponsored by the Niagara foundation are a welcome antidote to the distrust and misinformation so rampant in our media driven society. I have participated in two of these dinners and they were both very special and memorable experiences. They were opportunities for strangers of different faith and cultural traditions to come together and share their experiences. In a spirit of hospitality and open-mindedness, a group gathers for a meal and discussion. The atmosphere allowed for questions about other faiths and even broadened our understanding of how people of the same faith traditions choose different options. It is a program that improves the world by fostering understanding and focuses on our shared humanity while celebrating our differences. We arrived strangers and left fellow travelers on the journey through life. ”
Gregg Steigmeyer, Rogers Park, Chicago (Catholic)