by Diana Piedra
Last night our local Unitarian Church hosted an Interfaith Unity Potluck Dinner. I am a single, 36 year old, mother of two, and the kids and I don't go out to dinner very often so we were excited. We grabbed some kale salad and our most hopeful hearts and drove to church.
Upon entering the very busy commons area I knew we were all in for a treat. Long tables were adorned with brightly colored shimmery table cloths. There were no paper plates or plastic silverware in sight, only real dishes and silverware for this sacred night. Each person came with a dish and placed it on the buffet style set up in the front of the room. The smells and colors created an ambiance and feeling of home within the hall. It felt like a very special version of Thanksgiving.
Strangers greeted each other warmly and hugs were flowing freely. My mother had invited us to this event as she attends this church weekly. The kids and I found mom and the four of us headed to grab a spot at the far table with a red table cloth. Soon enough we found ourselves surrounded by people we knew and we engaged in polite conversation as we waited for the start of the buffet line.
Reverend Tom Capo's voice sounded clear over the speaker system welcoming the group and asking us to find people to sit by who we didn't know. We rearranged ourselves and a beautiful Muslim woman wearing a purple hijab made her way to the chair next to me. Rev. Tom asked that prepare in our own unique way for a blessing of the food. He then read a beautiful prayer and we made our way to the dinner line.
To say the food was excellent is an understatement. Each dish was distinct and and so many of them I had never tried. There was everything from chicken curry to Mexican rice and eggplant Parmesan.
I learned about three religions during the dinner Judaism, Siqquism, and Islam. I met truly incredible people. The woman next to me was a Muslim, a wife, and a mother of 3 grown children. Her religion requires her to be a community contributor and help her neighbors (of any religion) if they are in need. She recently spent an entire day (morning to night) at her neighbors house who has four young children doing her piles of laundry and washing her dishes. She had noticed the new mom was crying outside and was feeling overwhelmed, so she showed up one day to show her loving support and genuine empathy. I learned that Sikhism originated in Punjab, India. The religious philosophy was a response to the caste system in India (circa 1400) because they wanted equality and believed that one God resides in all living things including plants and animals. The Sikh men wear and turban and grow their hair to show devotion to their beliefs. The Jewish gentleman spoke of his slow progression towards being an agnostic. He words were eloquent and heartfelt.
The Unity Dinner was a reminder that we all can connect with one another on so many things. Family, love, a desire for acceptance and prayer are just some of the universal concepts being discussed at our table. I left the hall holding hands with my two children and knowing that this gift would live on in all of our hearts. I would recommend having an Interfaith Unity Dinner in your area.
A Lasting Peace will be partnering with Alive Center in Naperville, Illinois on March 5th from 5:30-8:30pm for a special event and vegan potluck. U.S. Congressional Candidate and Professor of International Human Rights in Chicago, Benjamin Wolf will be the main speaker and proceeds from this event will support Hesed House, World Relief and Reclaim 13.
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Diana Piedra feels she has always been an activist. Her heritage is half hispanic, the other half being a mix of German, Irish and English. Being hispanic made her feel she was not quite the same regardless of her family’s outward good fortune or popularity at school.
“I learned I could be popular and still be an outcast; made to feel inferior in some way,” she recalled. “I decided, I can be an outsider and it’s okay. I don't want anyone to have to feel this way. I’m not going to back down when it isn't fun anymore and I’m not going to just shove things under the rug. It’s going to take some bad ass warriors to make a difference in the world because we can’t just continue to gloss over controversial issues.”
Because of this heightened awareness coming from a multicultural family, she had a desire to fight for fairness. Spirituality had always been a strong force in her life, but still, became an unclear journey for her until she found yoga. Yoga gave her a space where she could pray with her whole body and everyone, from all different backgrounds, could come practice together and be accepted.
After the elections, Diana created A Lasting Peace. A Lasting Peace is virtual community based on an idea. It is the desire to create something sustainable and real in our society. Here especially in this part of the world there is a false sense that everything is perfect, she says.
“It isn’t perfect and it doesn't have to be. It is our rough spots and our differences that create the character of our culture and I believe we should celebrate all that,” Piedra states. “But there is animal abuse and sex trafficking and all kinds of real issues that need to be addressed. Refugees are not what we should be attacking at this time. Refugees are escaping places where these issues and worse are rampant. We need to stand behind the refugees and provide a safe place. I am compelled to bring forth injustices to create awareness and get people to act. Not to just throw money at a problem, but to humanize the issue. We call it a problem, but they are people.”