Nearly 100 people gathered for the Interfaith Friendship Festival at Abbey Delray North. Photo by Waymon Dixon. By C.B. Hanif That hint to humanity in the annual convergence of winter holidays? It keeps getting louder and louder. This year is no exception. With Thanksgiving and Christmas, Hanukah and the Hajj, Kwanzaa, New Years, Three Kings Day and others in such proximity, conditions are great for all kinds of good. The Delray Beach Interfaith Clergy Association set the tone Nov. 8 with the First Interfaith Friendship Festival in which I was fortunate to take part. It united nearly 100 folks from Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Unitarian Universalist, Baha’i and other traditions to share dialogue and a dinner that Abbey Delray North deserves a bow for hosting. That followed Yom Kippur in September, and Eid al-Fitr marking the end of Ramadan. Oct. 17 began India’s largest and best-known holiday, Diwali, the “festival of inner light” observed by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains. Baha’is celebrated the birth of founder Baha’u’llah Nov. 11 and 12. Since then, the New York-based Foundation for Ethnic Understanding wrapped up its second annual weekend of “Twinning” of mosques and synagogues across North America and Europe, Nov. 13-15, with 100 of each reporting improved communication, reconciliation and cooperation, including some in South Florida. Meanwhile, the success of the Hajj to the holy city Mecca, an obligation for every able Muslim at least once in life, was celebrated with Eid al-Adha on Nov. 27. That means the climax of the Hajj — the day of prayer to the Almighty by several million pilgrims in the barren desert outside Mecca — actually coincided with Thanksgiving Day. Another item in the winter-convergence roll call is the gathering in churches in many African-American and other communities for services on New Year’s Eve. It’s a tradition at which I balked as a sleepy-eyed youth. As I look forward to participating in that and a multitude of other local celebrations now, my only burden is having enough time and deciding which congregation with which to share it. Speaking of tradition, our media organizations have done a poor job of educating their publics about “the other.” They continue missing the stories of people who, increasingly, are getting together for learning and sharing, while respecting each others’ different spiritual and/or philosophical beliefs. Yes, “if it bleeds,” it still leads. But the unmistakable trend, again this season, is spiritual communities and individuals of faith — or no particular faith — fulfilling their mission as engines for transmuting destructive trends, setting higher examples and seeking common ground. C.B. Hanif is a writer, editor and media and inter-religious affairs consultant. He visits or speaks at synagogues, churches and mosques, seeking folks who are making the Golden Rule real, not just an ideal. On the Web at www.interfaith21.com.
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