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Second gentleman Doug Emhoff touts ‘crucial’ interfaith collaboration

WASHINGTON (RNS) — At a time when People appear extra divided than ever on issues of religion and politics, second gentleman Doug Emhoff is touting the facility of interfaith cooperation to convey individuals collectively for the frequent good. 

“These interfaith gatherings, this connectivity, this collaboration,” Emhoff mentioned at an interreligious iftar, “we have to construct round this nation and world wide.

“It’s so, so, so crucial.”

Emhoff spoke Thursday (April 28) to about 180 gathered for the “Iftar to Have fun American Spiritual Variety,” sponsored by the Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council and supported by different multifaith teams on the U.S. Institute of Peace.

Emhoff, the primary Jewish partner of a U.S. vice chairman, made his remarks in a “fireplace chat” moderated by Rashad Hussain, the primary Muslim ambassador-at-large for worldwide non secular freedom.

The 2 spoke on Yom Hashoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day, and the “Night of Power,” one of many holiest nights on the Islamic calendar, which falls close to the top of Ramadan. The iftar, which marked the top of the day’s quick for Muslims, additionally occurred inside weeks of spring holidays for quite a few non secular teams, together with Jews, Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Baha’i’s and Buddhists, all overlapping for the first time in more than three decades.

Hussain reveled within the range of the occasion. 

“I feel it’s exceptional and speaks to who we’re as a rustic,” mentioned Hussain, who was confirmed in December because the non secular freedom ambassador.


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The second gentleman, who wore a masks all through his remarks days after Vice President Kamala Harris’ COVID-19 prognosis, spoke about how his interfaith marriage mirrored the observance of main Jewish and Christian holidays in fast succession.

Dates can be found to interrupt the Ramadan quick throughout a multifaith iftar on the U.S. Institute of Peace headquarters in Washington, D.C., Thursday, April 28, 2022. RNS photograph by Adelle M. Banks

“We had the primary seder ever on the vice chairman’s residence,” he mentioned of their Passover meal adopted a few days later with celebrating Easter by attending a church service along with his spouse, who’s a Baptist woman raised by a Hindu family.

Emhoff mentioned his private expertise, in flip, matches into his persevering with advocacy work in his White Home function.

“It’s my job as second gentleman,” he mentioned, “to indicate those that that is the way it needs to be: Our communities working collectively and ensuring everybody can worship the best way they wish to worship.”

Past non secular rights, he mentioned that religion leaders, who typically have comparable values, must push again “after we see voting below assault, after we see others of those elementary rights below assault, which they’re all through the nation.”

Emhoff and Hussain’s dialogue was the centerpiece of a night of speeches and performances by a Muslim choir, a Catholic-born singer and a Sikh poet that preceded the breaking of the quick for Muslims. Some contributors munched on dates positioned on the tables earlier than the meal of rooster, rice and greens was served after Muslims paused to wish.

Nina Fernando, executive director of Shoulder to Shoulder, sings during a multifaith iftar at the U.S. Institute of Peace headquarters in Washington, D.C., Thursday, April 28, 2022. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks

Nina Fernando, govt director of Shoulder to Shoulder, sings throughout a multifaith iftar on the U.S. Institute of Peace headquarters in Washington, D.C., Thursday, April 28, 2022. RNS photograph by Adelle M. Banks

Nina Fernando, govt director of Shoulder to Shoulder, a multifaith group in solidarity with Muslim People, sang the prayer of St. Francis after acknowledging that her Christian religion is usually prioritized in the US.

“Let these of us who’re privileged,” she urged, “take further look after our fellow neighbors.”

Nav the Poet, a Sikh spoken-word artist, praised his immigrant father as a “champion.” Utilizing the title and chorus, “Thank You, Come Once more,” he described how his dad has pushed a taxi, owned a gasoline station and labored at a automotive dealership, searching for to make his method in “the land of alternative” in America.

Rabbi Chaim Strauchler of New Jersey learn from George Washington’s letter to the Jews of Newport, Rhode Island, through which the primary U.S. president mentioned his authorities “offers bigotry no sanction.” 

“Our beliefs require a continuing effort by we, the residents of this nation, to make these beliefs actual,” the rabbi mentioned.

Members of ADAMS Beat, a youth choir of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society in Virginia, perform during a multifaith iftar at the U.S. Institute of Peace headquarters in Washington, D.C., Thursday, April 28, 2022. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks

Members of ADAMS Beat, a youth choir of the All Dulles Space Muslim Society in Virginia, carry out throughout a multifaith iftar on the U.S. Institute of Peace headquarters in Washington, D.C., Thursday, April 28, 2022. RNS photograph by Adelle M. Banks

In his dialogue with Emhoff, Hussain sounded an analogous theme. The ambassador agreed that religion leaders are wanted to accompany authorities leaders in addressing the challenges confronted by the nation.

“We are able to’t do it alone,” he mentioned. “We’d like your partnership. We’d like civil society. We’d like your concepts. And we want you to assist to proceed bringing us collectively.”


RELATED: Doug Emhoff highlights Black interfaith contributions as new project launches

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