Multi-Faith Picnic Teaches to Love the Different, but Same 


Posted By
Jessica Eturralde
Posted On
Image Courtesy of the Islamic Center of Greater Miami


Last month, bustling under the unusually hot—even for Miami in February—sun, Christians and Muslims sat at picnic tables and stood talking on the lawn of the Islamic Center of Greater Miami (ICGM). In rows of canopy tents, members of the center displayed their wares: from trays of crunchy cardamom nut cookies to jewelry of precious stones and colorful racks of tunics and abayas.  

It was the first time that I, a Christian woman, had ever set foot on the grounds of a mosque.   

Several others, like me, were in attendance. We had never been to a mosque or interacted with Muslims significantly, aside from a few acquaintances over the years.    

The event, organized by LYN Community, Crossbridge Church and the Islamic Center in partnership, aimed to foster social unity and understanding through covenantal pluralism[1]. And here we were—people of different backgrounds came together because we wanted to learn from each other and bring our communities closer together.   

The crowd of over 400 was adorned with kufis and colorful hijabs, making it reasonably easy to differentiate between Muslims and Christians. Still, if you closed your eyes and paid attention to only the laughing and the squeals of children playing—we sounded the same.     

The picnic, the first of its kind, welcomed both congregations to have a good time and create new relationships.  

When the event began, it was clear that we were all generally apprehensive. Many of us stuck to our groups or our phones. When we saw new faces, we nervously smiled and nodded.  

It was a start. 

But we also had a common ground: we were both willing to try.   

When entering a space where ignorance has grasped the narrative for far too long, it’s amazing how naturally our presuppositions manipulate us: If someone looks at you and then quickly looks away, is it because they think less of you because of what you believe? When someone looks but doesn’t smile, are they suspicious of you? Does a lack of eye contact mean they think you are not holy or less dedicated to your religion?  

But are these visual social cues any different from visiting a new church?  

In new situations, strangers sometimes smile, welcome you, and try to make you comfortable or direct you where you need to go.   

But others will ignore you, connect eyes but quickly look away, or stare straight at you and not crack the faintest smile. They may be shy (or generally unfriendly), but the point is that these social behaviors occur in all circles.  

When asked what they would like others of different beliefs to understand about theirs, many Muslims expressed a desire for welcoming relationships and dispelled misconceptions of extremism. Similarly, Christians expressed a curiosity to learn about other religious contexts and build bridges. 

Leaders from both sides emphasized the importance of dialogue and creating spaces for genuine interaction. 

As the sun settled and the event thinned out, I pondered the significance of intentionally choosing to understand one another. 

To love our neighbor, we must be willing to listen to others we theologically disagree with. If we do not respect each other as human beings, then how are we any different from the straw man society has drawn?  

1 “Covenantal pluralism” is a robust, relational, and non-relativistic paradigm for living together, peacefully and productively, in the context of deep difference.

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